On the day of the Chicago Fire's annual White Party charity fundraiser, Frank Yallop refused to raise the white flag. Fire fans saw it clearly anyway.
"No, I'll never concede anytime," Yallop said during training Thursday at Toyota Park. "... A run of games gets us right back in the picture. You never give up on a season because it can change quickly."
But even Yallop, the Fire's coach and director of soccer, had to admit help is not on the way very soon, and it might not come at all this season. The MLS summer transfer window closed Wednesday without any further international signings beyond Romanian midfielder Razvan Cocis. Cocis looks like a solid player but not one capable of lifting the sagging spirits of the eighth-place Fire (3-5-13, 21 points) and its fans.
The Fire might still make the Eastern Conference playoffs, but only because the conference is weaker than watered-down coffee this year.
MLS has to find five teams to fill out the bracket, whether they're deserving or not. Despite only 10 players still in Chicago from the club he inherited last Halloween, Yallop still doesn't have a playoff-worthy roster, much less one that can compete for an MLS Cup.
The forward the Fire hoped to sign, Silvio Romero, will not arrive.
"We kept trying to keep it going, but the club pulled out at the end," Yallop said without naming the player but naming his French club, Lanus. "It wasn't the player, it wasn't the financial stuff, it was just the club decided not to sell. ...
"We felt we had this deal done. It was verbally agreed to."
Jermaine Jones, the 32-year-old midfielder who starred for the United States in the World Cup, remains a possibility, able to sign at any time before the Sept. 15 MLS roster freeze because he is a free agent. Jones seems content to hang out in Los Angeles and bide his time, perhaps hoping a spot opens with the Galaxy. If he's willing to wait for 2015, Jones could fill the designated player spot of Landon Donovan, who Thursday announced his retirement at the end of the 2014 season.
Yallop said the Fire also is talking with other players who could come on a free transfer, declining to name the players.
"The Jones thing is still out there," Yallop said, adding that MLS senior vice president Todd Durbin is negotiating with Jones and his agent. "Once he signs with the league, or if he signs with the league, I've got to figure out what we can do to get him to the club. ... It's not been an easy process."
This scenario might be new to Yallop, but it is not new to Fire fans. They've seen their team play just one playoff game in the last four seasons -- going on five seasons, if the current standings hold -- and they've heard this story before.
Last year the Fire brought in Arevalo Rios and Juan Luis Anangono, and now both are gone, their contributions minimal. The year before it was Sherjill MacDonald, but fans needed just one hand to count the goals he scored before he was booed out of town.
"I don't want to get into a point where we kind of just get anybody in," Yallop said. "That's what we don't want. As much as I want to get more players in and the team needs it to push on and the fans want to see it, I want to make the right move for this club."
But at some point management has to step up and make something good happen. It's no longer enough to express regret for events they believe to be out of their control.
"Everything is meant for a reason, I guess," Yallop said. "If it didn't work out, then so be it."
That doesn't work for Fire fans anymore.
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