Chicago Fire GM turns up the heat in MLS SuperDraft
There's something about the day of the MLS SuperDraft for Chicago Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez.
In the space of 24 hours, Rodriguez turned a sleepy off-season into a whirlwhind, boldly reshaping the roster Thursday and Friday.
Speedy and productive winger David Accam? Gone.
Last year's starting goalkeeper Matt Lampson and Jorge Bava, the man brought in last season but who lost the starting job to Lampson? Gone.
Top homegrown prospect Cam Lindley? Gone.
For Lampson and some allocation money, Rodriguez traded with Minnesota United to move up from 15th to fifth in Friday's draft and select forward Jon Bakero from Wake Forest. Bakero will provide a backup or strike partner for 2017 Golden Boot winner Nemanja Nikolic.
Finally, at least for Friday, for some more allocation money Rodriguez traded with Real Salt Lake so he could draft central midfielder Mo Adams from Syracuse at No. 10. Adams adds depth behind newly re-signed Bastian Schweinsteiger and Dax McCarty, along with Cary native Drew Conner.
"This year was a little bit different because we were the hunters as opposed to the hunted," said Rodriguez, who has made a habit of being active during the SuperDraft.
The Lampson trade leaves Rodriguez, who cut ties with Bava on Thursday, with only untested young goalkeepers Richard Sanchez and Stefan Cleveland.
"For sure, just in terms of numbers, we need to add a third, and we'll continue to work through our scouting list in that position," Rodriguez said, adding he had to include Lampson in the trade to get Bakero, the Hermann Trophy winner and MVP at last week's MLS scouting combine.
Sending Accam to the Philadelphia Union for a whopping $1.2 million in allocation money leaves a gaping hole for a couple of attacking midfielders or another forward. Presumably the funny money will be used to fill those holes.
Rodriguez knows he isn't done hunting.
"Oh, yes, the roster is very much incomplete, and there's still quite a bit of work left," he said. "While it's ideal to go into training camp with something that more closely resembles the roster that you're looking to get into the season with, in our case I think it's more important that we continue to add pieces that we think fit our style, fit our mentality, fit our philosophy. And it's important now that we remain disciplined in that pursuit and not feel pressured to just close deals."
The Fire opens preseason training Monday. The season begins March 10.
Losing Accam was not a surprise. His contract expires after the 2018 season, and he could have signed a pre-contract this summer overseas. Plus, sources have said he didn't get along with coach Veljko Paunovic, especially after Paunovic left Accam off the MLS All-Star Game roster last August.
Trading Accam within the league instead of an international transfer was a surprise, though, especially for a hefty amount of allocation money. That money could be used to acquire center midfielder Lee Nguyen from the New England Revolution or sign international midfielder Juan Quintero, as has been rumored.
The Accam deal clears a designated player slot for the Fire. Rodriguez also has the resources to sign another player or two above the cap and buy them down with targeted allocation money.
In the meantime last year's top draft pick, Daniel Johnson, should get an opportunity to show what he can do.
Mueller to Orlando City:
Orlando City SC used the No. 6 overall pick in Friday's SuperDraft to select Schaumburg native Chris Mueller from the University of Wisconsin. Mueller, a forward/midfielder, joins a roster that already includes Arlington Heights native Jonathan Spector.