The Chicago Fire is feeling today a little like the efficient, hard-working employee who winds up on the unemployment line anyway.
Major League Soccer announced Sunday that U.S. midfielder Jermaine Jones, sought by the Fire the past several weeks, instead was going to the New England Revolution, after signing with the league as a free agent, as a result of a blind draw. The last thing the Fire (4-6-14, 26 points) wanted to see was another draw.
Apparently MLS ruled out flipping a coin and rock, paper, scissors as a means of deciding which team would get Jones and which would get the shaft.
Fire coach and director of soccer Frank Yallop took the shaft in his customary gentlemanly manner.
"The Chicago Fire Soccer Club has pursued Jermaine Jones as a free agent signing over the past month and a half, and have gone to great lengths to bring him into Major League Soccer and our organization. We thought that he'd be a great fit in Chicago," Yallop said in a statement the club released.
"While we're deeply disappointed that he will not be a part of the Fire, we respect the system employed by MLS and wish Jermaine well with his new club. This result does not alter our vision of building a complete side and we'll continue to move forward with this process as planned."
Secretly, Fire management might be hoping Jones has spent too much time partying in Los Angeles and Las Vegas since coming back from the World Cup to be fit enough to help New England. Could you blame them?
There is no blaming owner Andrew Hauptman, Yallop or Fire technical director Brian Bliss for losing Jones, 32. The Fire stepped up, offered a competitive salary, played by the ever-evolving MLS rules as they knew them and then Hauptman lobbied for Jones to be allocated to the Fire just as Revolution owner Robert Kraft and his son Jonathan lobbied for their team to get the player, even though the Revs came late to the party.
MLS wound up in the middle and couldn't have mishandled the situation any more poorly. Maybe next time the Fire needs the league to turn a blind eye to one of its own rules, it will get the benefit of the doubt.
This situation does, however, further highlight the Fire's previous failings. With Jones going to New England, the Fire is back to being the only MLS team without a designated player, that unique MLS rule that allows each team to break the bank on up to three players.
This is a team without a star to build around, almost sure to miss the playoffs for the fourth time in the past five seasons. The eighth-place Fire's best chance this season is to play spoiler.
Razvan Cocis, Sanna Nyassi and Robert Earnshaw are solid midseason additions, but they'll be too little and too late for this team. The Fire will have to start over again during the off-season, and management will have to hope both it and MLS get things right then.
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