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Fire Tue Jan 20 2009

Offseason News

One week in and I'm already going to interrupt my usual round-up of drinking in bars and watching foreign soccer to bring you a round-up of several important offseason developments for the Chicago Fire over the past week.

Farewell to the Captain
In a surprising development, Assistant Coach Chris Armas announced he was stepping down from his post to be closer to his family in New York. Armas has been with the organization since it started, first as a player, then captain, and then as an Assistant Coach. I like to think even though he's leaving; a part of him will always be with the club. Hopefully, he'll get inducted into the Ring of Fire this year. That lineup has decent management, a good sweeper, a playmaker and some strikers, but could really use a no-nonsense, tough tackling midfielder. More importantly, the fans just need a chance to thank the guy for everything he's given us. Wherever Armas lands, (and let's hope it's not the New York Red Bulls for Armas's sake) , he'll continue to be a credit to the US Soccer community.

The Draft
I never put a lot of stock in college drafts. Unlike other sports, it's hard to tell how guys from the college ranks will pan out because there are so many different paths to becoming a professional soccer player. But according to Ives Galarcep, the Fire made out like bandits. The big move came when they traded the rights to former goalkeeper Matt Pickens for a first round pick. They used that pick to select UIC playmaker Baggio Husidic. Despite a reportedly poor showing in the MLS Combine, Husidic has been a standout at a UIC program on the rise and Denis Hamlet has had plenty of time to scout him. Some see his role as the understudy and heir apparent to Blanco. Others think he'd be more suited as a defensive midfielder in MLS, an area where the Fire definitely need to strengthen their depth. Other picks included Jokull Elisabetarson, whose name might be the most fun to say of any Fire player since Ryan Futagaki. The Fire's final pick, Richard Jata, was also the final pick of the entire draft. He apparently stole the show with a long, emotional speech that garnered standing ovations and a few teary eyes.

Notably, Galarcep reported that the Fire were ready to trade midfielder Justin Mapp to Toronto FC in exchange for more draft picks - suggesting despite his renewed contract, his spot on the team isn't that secure.

National Team Camp
Highlighting what a strong 2008 the Fire had, three players got called into the US National Team's January training camp. Generally the January camp involves a lot of fringe players that don't end up on the World Cup squad, but look for Jon Busch, Chris Rolfe and John Thorrington to try to impress coach Bob Bradley this Saturday as the US takes on Sweden.

Deadwood Gone
Three of the Fire's higher priced bench warmers - Lider Marmol, Tomasz Frankowski, and Andy Herron - won't be returning next year. This leaves around half a million dollars on the salary cap, but don't expect the Fire to go on a spending spree. A lot of that money will go to raising Brian McBride's salary, since he took a substantial pay cut to play for the Fire last season.

 
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J. Clark / January 21, 2009 7:37 AM

Steve- the updates are appreciated, especially by those of us juggling too many projects in "the off season". Big year for Hamlet to see if he moves forward or slides back.

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