Nelson Rodriguez is standing his ground and sticking to his plan for rebuilding the Chicago Fire. He will not be rushed.
"We're believers in process," the Fire general manager said in an interview Wednesday with the Daily Herald. "We feel good about the progress that we're making. We also recognize there's a lot of road still to cover."
So yes, the Fire will add to its very thin roster, even after subtracting homegrown midfielder Harry Shipp on Saturday via trade to Montreal.
"The team is incomplete," Rodriguez said, "and we continue to negotiate with two (foreign) players simultaneously at the moment. I don't know if those will prove successful or not. We have other players in the pipeline in reserve, and even if we are successful with those two, I would still say the team is not complete.
"It may take over a year to get it exactly the way we want, but we think it's important to be judicious with the people that we bring in because our investments are intended to be such that we can keep this team together when we put it together."
So no, the Fire will not rush to add several players in the 2½ weeks before opening the season March 6 at Toyota Park against NYCFC just to complete the roster. First-year coach Veljko Paunovic will make do with what he has for a while, working with what they both hope becomes the base of a successful club for a long time.
The league requires 18 players on each team's "senior" roster (a maximum of 28 on the senior and supplemental rosters), and the Fire has 21 signed players, though at least a couple of the young and inexperienced players probably are headed to USL affiliate Saint Louis FC for seasoning. How many of those are considered senior players?
"There is flexibility in where you can put players above and below the line," Rodriguez said. "The bottom line is we're in compliance with league rules. It's just a matter of what we want to do, what we think is best."
Current Fire players such as Michael Stephens and 18-year-old Downers Grove native Collin Fernandez will be given the chance to win the midfield job Shipp vacated, but the club still expects to bring in a player for that spot via transfer.
"While we are working toward bringing them in now, we may have to settle for later in May, early June depending upon whether we can reach agreement or if the clubs even decide to let them go," Rodriguez said.
The list of players now training with the team in Portland, Oregon, lists just Gilberto and Kennedy Igboananike as forwards, a weakness Rodriguez acknowledges.
"There is not sufficient depth there," he said. "That is something that we need to look at and try to address. It becomes challenging in terms of number of international slots, budget space and the like. We'll continue to look for other options there, including some that are domestic."
The assumption has been the club wants to move Igboananike after he underperformed in 2015, his first season in Chicago. But like Frank Yallop before him, Rodriguez asked for more time for Igboananike, sounding in no hurry to clear his salary and international roster slot.
"Kennedy scored 7 goals last year in limited time getting adjusted to a new league," Rodriguez said. "He's had a fantastic camp. He's being asked to do some things for us that are a little bit different than he's been accustomed, so he needs to be given some time to acclimate himself to those requests."
That's the plan.
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