Chicago Fire looking to improve depth along back line

Updated 7/13/2017 9:07 PM
  • Nelson Rodriguez

    Nelson Rodriguez

It's a slow week at Toyota Park. Sort of the calm before the storm … maybe.

The MLS secondary transfer window opened Monday, meaning teams can acquire players again. The Fire is rumored to be interested in Colombian central attacking midfielder Juan Quintero.

Quintero has the ability to unlock a packed-in defense, a weakness the Fire showed when it was shut out at Orlando City and in its U.S. Open Cup loss at FC Cincinnati.

"What I learned last year is deals are hard to get over the line, whether it's international acquisitions or trades within the league," said second-year Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez, who declined to comment on Quintero specifically.

"While we're engaged in discussions in a lot of different fronts and a lot of different areas impacting the team, there's nothing that leads me to say I know something will happen. It's very fluid, and the things that you think are dead come back to life, and things that you think are done end up dying or changing."

Rodriguez pointed to depth along the back line as a need.

"I would say the one spot on the field that has sufficient competition and depth is in attack," he added.

Rodriguez said he won't sign another goalkeeper unless backup Jorge Bava's elbow injury "becomes long term."

The transfer window closes Aug. 9.

Less than three weeks to go:

Fire coach Veljko Paunovic didn't get to enjoy the team's week off last week for the Gold Cup break. He was too busy preparing to coach the MLS all-stars against Real Madrid on Aug. 2 at Soldier Field.

"Right now it's not easy, of course," said Paunovic, who will pick part of the roster. "There are always some small details that we will decide at the end."

Paunovic said he's looking forward to coaching in the MLS All-Star Game.

"It's something I'm very proud of and grateful for that opportunity, but also I'm trying to focus on daily work with our team," he added.

Hometown Homegrown:

Lemont's Djordje Mihailovic will represent the Fire at the Homegrown Game the day before the Fire hosts the All-Star Game. The homegrowns play Aug. 1 at 7 p.m. at Toyota Park.

The MLS homegrowns will play a Mexican club team, Chivas de Guadalajara's U-20 team.

"It's an honor to play alongside the top under-21s across MLS against a strong U-20s Chivas team," said the 18-year-old central midfielder. "It's an honor to represent my club and my city in that game, and I'm looking forward to it."

Mihailovic, a first-year professional, has played in six games this season.

"I don't think of myself as a young player; I think of myself as one of them. I just work and work and try to compete to be on the field like everybody else," he said. "It's not whether I'm young, it's whether I'm good enough to be on the field, and I think I'm good enough."

Former Fire players and suburban products Brian McBride and Mike Magee will coach the MLS homegrowns.

Back to work:

The Fire's week off for the Gold Cup break ended officially with Wednesday's practice, but there still were some excused absences Thursday.

Bastian Schweinsteiger and Johan Kappelhof returned to Europe for the week and were given an extra couple of days. Schweinsteiger on Thursday celebrated the anniversary of his wedding to retired tennis star Ana Ivanovic.

Nemanja Nikolic, the league's leading scorer, returned Thursday and did some light running on the side.

Midfielder Dax McCarty remains with the U.S. national team for the Gold Cup.

The Fire's next game is July 22 at New York City FC.

Earning a recall:

GM Nelson Rodriguez said the Fire will recall midfielder/forward Joey Calistri from the USL's Tulsa Roughnecks, where he is on loan with Downers Grove's Collin Fernandez.

Calistri, from Deerfield, will be recalled next week. He has 5 goals for Tulsa.

"He's having a real good year in Tulsa and is doing good things," Rodriguez said.

• Follow Orrin's soccer reports on Twitter @Orrin_Schwarz.

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