As the 2018 MLS season closes in, we will run through the key additions and losses for all 23 teams over the course of the winter transfer window. There have been a number of key signings and significant trades which should ensure the new season is as exciting as ever before. Today we look at all Chicago Fire’s key transfers and what it could mean for them in their 2018 MLS campaign…
Chicago Fire were impressive during the 2017 season. Finishing in the top three was a major improvement on the previous year, although they did fall short at the first hurdle in the playoffs. Now it is time for Veljko Paunović’s side to kick on and see if they can reach the playoffs for the second season on the bounce. There have been some high profile departures from the squad with as many as 13 shown the exit door. The Fire have added five new faces so far but it would be a surprise to see their business stop there…
Grant Lillard: Tipped as one of the best college soccer players over the last four years, Grant Lillard is an exciting prospect for Chicago. The 6-foot-4 central defender is rated highly by General Manager Nelson Rodriguez who feels he can become a dominant player. Lillard featured in an Indiana University side that conceded just seven goals in 25 games, so it is clear he has the potential to be a future star. While he may not be expected to be a regular starter in his rookie season, he will no doubt be utilised and coming up against some of the best attacking sides in MLS is only going to help him improve his qualities.
Rafael Ramos: Another defender with the potential to make an impact for Chicago. Rafael Ramos is a name familiar to MLS having been at Orlando City since their introduction to the league back in 2015. He’s made 37 appearances in his MLS career so far and at just 23 there is plenty of time for him to become a regular feature of the Fire backline. Providing healthy competition for Matt Polster will be beneficial to improving Chicago’s squad depth.
Jon Bakero: When talking about having a name to live up to, there might not be a huge amount of people who can tell you much about Jon Bakero. He is the son of former Spanish international and Barcelona attacking midfielder Jose Mari Bakero. The 21-year-old is looking to follow in the footsteps of his father and make a name for himself, and while he has not yet played in Europe, his inception into MLS has an impressive back story. He was awarded with the Hermann Trophy as the NCAA’s top player for 2017 and the Class Award during his senior college year. His commitment to college soccer has shown his desire to succeed and signing through the SuperDraft is a clear indication of his efforts paying off. Bakero is going to be one to keep an eye on…
Aleksander Katai: The Serbian has come in on loan from Deportivo Alaves. As a versatile option in either attacking midfield or on the wing he is seen as a positive addition to the Chicago squad and someone who can help fill the void left by recent departures.
John Goossens: The loss of John Goossens might not come as too much of a surprise for many, however he will be a player Chicago will miss having in the squad – highlighted by the number of times he featured for the Fire last season. The midfielder made 24 appearances in the 2017 campaign, starting 15. He was an important member of the squad who surprisingly was their second-highest assist provider with four, while he added three more goals himself.
Joao Meira: Chicago’s top four appearances makers were defenders and Joao Meira was one of them. A fundamental part of their backline, he started 27 of his 30 games in 2017 but is now a free agent. After 58 appearances with Chicago during his two seasons with the club he signed a contract with Lorca FC in the Spanish Segunda, although his contract has since been terminated after the side failed to meet their previously agreed terms, leaving him in limbo.
David Accam: The biggest departure from Chicago has to be David Accam – their top scorer in the 2017 campaign. The winger, who as we all know has blistering pace and the ability to create something from nothing, has moved on to Eastern Conference rivals Philadelphia Union. He will be a huge miss for the Chicago starting XI and is yet to be replaced with a like-for-like attacker in terms of quality and experience.
Arturo Alvarez: Another Chicago player who has left the club after two seasons is Arturo Alvarez. He has been traded to Houston Dynamo after featuring 25 times during the 2017 campaign. Alvarez netted three goals and provided a further two assists last season but struggled to be selected on a consistent basis having started just 13 games. Despite all that, he was a frequently used squad player who Chicago will be looking to replace with like-for-like experience given that he is about to begin his 15th MLS campaign.