The Chicago Fire were busy over the last few days as they made significant roster and front-office decisions.
The newest MLS team, Charlotte FC, made their selections in the expansion draft last night, but were the Fire affected?
All that and more in this week’s Chicago Fire updates:
Aliseda Transferred to Lugano from Chicago Fire
The Chicago Fire made two significant decisions regarding two of their Designated Player (DP) contracts. The first news to come out told of Ignacio Aliseda’s transfer to FC Lugano.
Fire owner Joe Mansueto purchased the Swiss Super League side earlier this year. The transfer is not official until the European Transfer Window opens on New Year’s Day.
“After many discussions with Ignacio, we were all in agreement that this was the right time for a new challenge,” said Sporting Director Georg Heitz. He may have a point.
Aliseda did show flashes of brilliance, as seen by his brace against Atlanta United in July. The performance even earned him MLS Team and Player of the Week honors. However, Ignacio – known affectionately as Nacho – simply did not provide enough consistency for a Designated Player.
A good passer of the ball (94th percentile in pass completion % among MLS attacking midfielders/wingers), Aliseda could not provide enough goal-scoring opportunities (sub-50th percentile in both non-penalty xG and xA). Nacho only scored five goals in total during his two seasons with the club and added only three assists.
Giménez to Return
Unlike Aliseda, Gastón Giménez will be returning to the Fire, occupying a DP and International slot. After much speculation, Georg Heitz and Ezra Hendrickson deemed Giménez worthy enough of a new two-year contract.
Giménez had a wonderful 2020 season as he partnered with homegrown talent Mauricio Pineda in the defensive midfield. But with Pineda playing more of a central defending role in 2021, Giménez struggled to do the dirty work required of a DP defensive midfield player.
While many will disagree with the move, there are a few potential reasons why Heitz and Henrickson chose to re-sign Giménez.
First, many teams reportedly have contacted Chicago about Giménez’s availability. Re-signing him does give the Fire flexibility if they want to move him in the summer window instead of losing him for nothing.
Second, last year’s signing of Federico Navarro gives the Fire a player who most certainly does the dirty work in the midfield. This may allow Giménez to play more of a forward role, something he has shown promise in doing.
Third, Giménez brings experience and leadership. There were rumors of Giménez being late to training sessions last season, but those reports were deemed false. He is 30 years old and has multiple seasons of MLS soccer under his belt.
Major League Soccer’s newest club, Charlotte FC, selected five players in the 2021 MLS Expansion Draft last night. Unsurprisingly, Charlotte did not select any of the Fire’s unprotected players.
The eight players Charlotte could have selected were: forward Robert Berić, defender Francisco Calvo, midfielder Elliot Collier, defender Johan Kappelhof, goalkeeper Kenneth Kronholm, midfielder Álvaro Medrán, goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, and midfielder Luka Stojanović.
The Fire decided against picking up the contract options for all but two of those players. The other two (Kappelhof, Shuttleworth) are out of contract as of November and are not expected to return to the Fire. So, the club was really not in any danger of losing important pieces to its 2022 plans.
Chicago Fire Front Office Moves
The club made three announcements that shook up the business side of the front office. First, Head of Marketing Kyle Sheldon left the club after three years in Chicago. Sheldon led the club through its latest rebrand, which resulted in a positive reception of a new logo.
Two additions were made as Jordan Zelik and Jeroen van den Bergh were named Chief of Staff and Chief Strategy Officer, respectively.
Zelik recently spent time at Yahoo Sports where he was responsible for developing strategic partnerships with a major sports league and sports betting and fantasy companies. The latter experience will certainly come into play as Chicago is set to pass an ordinance allowing in-stadium sports betting.
van den Bergh played a pivotal role in the growth of Allied Sports, an NYC-based sports, entertainment, and lifestyle marketing company. He will report to Fire President of Business Operations Ishwara Glassman Chrein and focus on strategic planning initiatives, growth and operational objectives, and developing new business opportunities.
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