Frank Yallop's remaking of the Chicago Fire has been slow and steady and without major surprises.
Thursday's signing of Harry Shipp as the club's third homegrown player fits that mold. Shipp's signing has been expected for months, and it should make the Fire a better team.
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OK, it's not as spectacular as signing Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe, as Toronto FC is rumored to have up its sleeve. There is still time for the Fire to make a splash in the transfer market, though the rumor mill is quiet where the Fire is concerned.
A Lake Forest native who won the NCAA championship in December with Notre Dame, Shipp, 22, would have been a high first-round draft pick if the Fire had let him enter the MLS SuperDraft on Jan. 16, when the Fire will pick eighth, 61st, 65th and 75th overall. He can play a withdrawn forward or attacking midfielder role, and he should be good enough to be on the bench game days, if not in the starting lineup.
Shipp said he patterns his game after Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta.
"I love the way he plays," Shipp said, though he hopes to be versatile enough to work his way onto the field no matter the position.
Shipp is a finalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy, with the winner to be announced Friday.
"Harry's a local guy, one of the best college players in the country and we are extremely excited to have him join the Fire," Yallop said in a statement. "It speaks very highly of our player development system where a player of Harry's caliber can thrive and have a direct route to the first team.
"He's trained with the first team over the summer and we expect a smooth transition for him from the college game to the professional ranks."
Shipp will not be the last move the Fire makes this off-season. Yallop, the new coach and director of soccer, still has a couple of spots on his technical staff to fill, even after deciding Thursday to add Aron Hyde as goalkeepers coach after dismissing Hyde in November with the rest of Frank Klopas' staff.
"A big thing was to clear my mind, making sure I came in with an open mind on everything," Yallop, who was not made available to the media and has kept a low profile since early November, said to Chicago-Fire.com. "Through the process, I spoke to several candidates with Aron being one of them. As we went through it, I came to the conclusion that Aron still fit in very well with what we're doing and so the decision was clear."
Yallop still could sign another homegrown player. Northwestern midfielder Chris Ritter seems likely, though Naperville native Bryan Ciesiulka, a Marquette graduate, apparently will not be signed. Yallop still could re-sign captain Logan Pause to a new contract at a lower salary, and he still could make a move in the transfer market.
Whether Yallop can make Chicago excited about soccer again this summer is too early to tell. But Shipp's signing is a step in the right direction.
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