The speculation is over. Frank Yallop got his man. Shaun Maloney was one of the first players targeted as a possible addition during Yallop's post season scouting mission and after a long courtship the deal is done. A source has confirmed to Fire Confidential, a BBC reportthis morning that Chicago and Wigan have agreed to a transfer fee for the player.
With 2014 mercifully over Fire fans can start looking forward to a new season which officially begins in a few weeks when players report for physicals on January 25. The squad will look much different in 2015 with new Designated Players David Accam and Kennedy Igboananike in the fold but Frank Yallop and company still have work to do to fill out the roster between now and the end of January.
After departing the league in 2013, former Toronto FC forward Robert Earnshawdecided he wanted to return to MLS midway through this season.
The Chicago Fire announced Monday that the clubhas acquired the former TFC striker on a free transfer, with the Welsh international set to join the team upon receipt of his visa and international transfer certificate.
Quincy's Amarikwa's 15th minute goal held up to give the Fire a 1-0 win over Premier League side Queens Park Rangers this morning. The goal was set up via a combination play with Shaun Maloney and Harry Shipp. Those three players led the attack in Frank Yallop's 4-3-3 with the middle three also looking a little bit different than they did last week against Norwich City.
Frank Yallop got his man this time. The Fire are very high on 24 year old Ghanaian forward David Accam who signed with the club as a Designated Player. Accam had other options with Premier League clubs reportedly pursuing his signature but chose to come to Chicago and MLS based on meetings with Yallop this winter.
Reports across the pond indicate that Leicester City has secured a deal with Wigan for the services of midfielder Shaun Maloney but Frank Yallop isn't closing the door on the Fire's chances to acquire him just yet. Yallop told reporters during a conference call Wednesday afternoon that the Fire still believe they are in play for Maloney.
Leicester City's reported offer of just over $1.1 million USD to Wigan for Scottish midfielder Shaun Maloney was turned down last week and interest from Everton and Cetlic haven't kept the Fire from remaining optimistic that they can secure his signature this January. Despite reports that Maloney prefers to stay in England it appears that he is very receptive to playing in the United States and the Fire currently have the best offer on the table.
It's been a busy week for the Fire. First word of CJ Brown's departure came Monday, followed by a DP signing in Kennedy Igboananike yesterday, and now Frank Yallop has apparently filled one of the missing pieces in the back line with the addition of left back Joevin Jones. The Trinidad & Tobago international has been capped 37 times by his national team and most recently completed a loan spell with Finish first division club HJK Helsinki.
This has been a rough season for the Chicago Fire and the year appears to be closing with more bad news. The Daily Herald reported this morning that lead assistant CJ Brown is leaving the club to accept a coaching position with expansion team New York City FC. Brown, a 2012 Ring of Fire inductee is immensely popular among the Fire's fan base and this news is certain not to go over well.
This match seemed destined for yet another draw before Sporting Kansas City struck twice in the last ten minutes to hand the Fire their ninth defeat of the season. During this odd record-breaking trek, the Fire's 18 deadlocks easily surpasses the total of the next closest club in terms of ties (Vancouver has 13) but the nine losses are tied with DC United and New York for the fewest defeats in the Eastern Conference.
With the ninth and tenth place teams in the Eastern Conference facing each other nobody expected this match to be much to look at. The Fire and Impact lived up to their billing as bottom dwellers in the conference with a 0-0 draw that essentially encapsulated Chicago's entire season in one 90 minute snoozer.
The Fire and Vancouver Whitecaps played to a 1-1 draw thanks to a late tying goal from trialist Shahdon Winchester leaving the team with a 1-0-4 preseason record. Draws in practice matches aren't a big concern and Frank Yallop is fairly happy with the team's progress going into the start of the season.
The third draw in four preseason matches may raise some eyebrows after last season's record breaking number of ties but Frank Yallop was happier with the performance in this match than he was after Sunday's draw against Stabaek."I thought the performance was very good in all departments," said Yallop after the match.
The Fire played to a 0-0 draw with Bob Bradley's Stabaek IF but the bigger story on the night is injuries. David Accam finally made his debut with the team after missing the first phase of camp on national team duty but left the match in the 62nd minute with an apparent injury just before he was about to be subbed off.
As a San Jose native, the earthquakes team and I have a personal relationship. Frank Yallop, San Jose's former coach and 2012 MLS coach of the year, lived accross the street from me and we would converse often. One day, I went outside, saw a property for sale sign, and discovered the earthquakes were making management changes.
The Fire arrived in the United Kingdom this morning after a seven hour delay due to weather. The team spent the first week of preseason training locally at the Bridgeview Sports Dome and the Private Bank Fire Pitch. They'll practice at Norwich City's Colney Training Centre from February 2-10 with a match against their hosts sandwiched in on the 5th.
During the Section 8 Chicago/ISA's Annual General meeting this past weekend Fire brass updated supporters on a variety of topics during a Q&A session. Here's a quick rundown of the highlights for those that were not in attendance:
Frank Yallop, Brian Bliss, Atul Khosla, and Logan Pause all participated in the Q&A session.
The Fire selected 7th and 28th in today's annual MLS "SuperDraft" and came away with two additions that have been been playing relatively close to what could be their professional home. Matt Polster is a 6'-0" defender from Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville who made three appearances with the Fire PDL squad last year.
Frank Yallop met media yesterday to discuss the final days of post-season training and the team's plans going into 2015. Players will conclude training this week and sit with the technical staff today and tomorrow at which time decisions for options and renewals will be discussed. After a disappointing season, Yallop said that moves can be expected but stopped just short of saying that wholesale roster changes would be made.
A switch to a more attack minded 4-3-3 formation didn't change the results and didn't provide any more offensively than the Fire have been able to generate over the last few weeks. A few isolated chances in an otherwise drab performance in Houston resulted in Chicago's eighth loss of the season. The record breaking 17th draw will have to wait but the Fire have five more chances to claim it.
TFC learns the "Hack-a-Quincy" strategy works with Canadian Refstoo.(Photo via MLSsoccer.com)
So this is how CF97's season looks to end, not with a bang but a whisper. OTF's Brian Howe Battle chooses to wallow on a larger scalethan just the most recent Fire draw.
Fall nears, and with it comes the familiar signs of autumn — brisk winds, colder shadows, the re-introduction of the dominant American sport of Football, and the beginning of the English Premiere League.
With the Fire on their way to breaking their own record for draws in a season, the sober reality that playoff hopes are all but extinguished seems to be taking hold. "Usually, you find a ways to lose matches as a group, as a lot of coaches say, but we find ways to tie matches, when we should be winning them," said Frank Yallop after the match.
Frank Yallop didn't hide his disappointment with losing Jermaine Jones to the New England Revolution but remained politically correct and avoided any direct criticism of the the league and the dubious circumstances that led to the now infamous "blind draw". "Obviously, from a club point of view (we're) very disappointed that we didn't get him.
The Fire will have an opportunity to reach the seventh US Open Final in club history but they'll have to beat a team they have yet to defeat in any competition. Since coming into the league in 2009 the Fire are 0-7-3 against Seattle including a loss in 2011's US Open Cup Final. If the Fire are to reach a seventh USOC Final they'll have to do it without Mike Magee who is unavailable due to a red card ejection in the quarter final game against Atlanta.
The Fire needed to add reinforcements before the transfer deadline yesterday but weren't able to get a deal done. Frank Yallop told reporters this morning that a deal fell through at the last minute when the club they had been working with backed out. "We had something really close, that basically in the last couple of days sort of unraveled.