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updated: 8/14/2013 6:08 PM

MacDonald experiment proves to be a flop

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  • Chicago Fire forward Sherjill MacDonald (7) reacts after missing a pass against the Houston Dynamo during the second half of their MLS soccer playoff match, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in Bridgeview, Ill. Houston won 2-1.

      Chicago Fire forward Sherjill MacDonald (7) reacts after missing a pass against the Houston Dynamo during the second half of their MLS soccer playoff match, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in Bridgeview, Ill. Houston won 2-1.
    Associated Press

  • Argentina's Lionel Messi, right, heads the ball against Uruguay's Arevalo Rios, left, during a 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Mendoza, Argentina, Friday, Oct. 12, 2012.

      Argentina's Lionel Messi, right, heads the ball against Uruguay's Arevalo Rios, left, during a 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Mendoza, Argentina, Friday, Oct. 12, 2012.
    Associated Press

 
 

Sherjill MacDonald always was something of an experiment, an attempt by the Chicago Fire to strike gold at silver prices.

Arévalo Rios is just the opposite. The Fire knows exactly what it's getting in Rios, a tenacious competitor with a strong resume who arrives from Palermo in Italy's famed Serie A and also plays for Uruguay's national team.

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"Arévalo is a midfielder with a wealth of international experience," said Fire president of soccer operations Javier Leon in a team statement. "He provides another talented option for our midfield and will help us make the push for the second half of the season."

MacDonald, a 28-year-old Dutch forward who was signed just more than a year ago, had just 4 goals and 5 assists in 27 matches for the Fire before the team cut ties with him Tuesday to open an international roster spot for Rios. MacDonald's only goal this season came in a friendly against Club America. He appeared out of shape and complained all season about a calf injury slowing him as he gradually fell out of favor with coach Frank Klopas and became a target for angry fans.

The two players illustrate the hit-and-miss record of Leon and vice president of soccer operations Guillermo Petrei on the international market. When it digs for a hidden gem, the Fire has come up consistently empty (the jury is still out on Juan Luis Anangono, signed last month), with the exception of midfielder Alex. When it goes for the proven veteran it has found success in players like World Cup veterans Arne Friedrich and Pavel Pardo. Rios, who helped Uruguay place fourth in the 2010 World Cup, should follow in Pardo's and Friedrich's footsteps.

Both Rios and MacDonald are designated players in Major League Soccer parlance, high-priced players (by MLS standards) for whom expectations are just as high. Rios seems more up to the task than MacDonald ever was.

Just one look at Rios -- with his shaved head, vein bulging on his forehead, a thin, vertical strip of facial hair splitting his chin -- suggests he will give MLS opponents a devil of a time in the final 12 games of the regular season, minus three games he will miss if he's called for 2014 World Cup qualifying by Uruguay as expected. He's expected to receive his visa and International Transfer Certificate in time to make his MLS debut at New England on Saturday (6:30 p.m., Channel 50).

MacDonald was a friendly guy who seemed to lack the confidence and drive necessary to succeed in a league in which work rate matters.

Rios' signing seems to be the model for the Fire front office to follow in the future, especially when it comes to DPs.

oschwarz@dailyherald.com

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