Fire brings back three midfielders

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Fire brings back three midfielders

AVE MARIA, FL. The Fire opened preseason training Monday at Ave Maria University with some notable off-the-field developments.
The club announced that it has brought back three midfielders from last years team and also gained an international roster spot. The latter materialized when Arne Friedrich, the German defender who played so well in his first Major League Soccer season in 2012, obtained his green card.
The green card means the clubs Defender-of-the-Year wont be counted among the international slots. Those will go to Brazilian medfielder Alex, Italian goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi and Dutch striker Sherjill MacDonald.
Friedrich let it be known that he wanted to return to the Fire immediately after last season ended and the club was quick to make that possible. Not only did Friedrich speed the development of eventual MLS Rookie-of-the-Year Austin Berry, he also helped make the Fire one of the best defensive teams in the circuit. The Fire allowed 41 goals in 34 matches, second-best in the Eastern Conference.
Alex was among the midfielders brought back by the club. The Fire picked up the option year on Alex and Mike Videira, who will enter his fourth MLS season and third with the Fire. The Fire also re-signed Corben Bone, the clubs first-round draft choice (13th overall) in 2010. Bone had earlier entered the re-entry draft, but withdrew his name from consideration at the last minute in anticipation of returning to the Fire.
None of the midfield trio has played all that much. Videira made seven starts in 12 matches for the Fire over his two campaigns and Bone played in 17 matches in three seasons.
Alex, who joined the Fire from Swiss club Wohlen FC, was a late-season starter after Sebastian Grazzini returned to Argentina. Alex had two goals in 17 appearances.
HERE AND THERE:The Fire will add to its training camp roster on Tuesday in the MLS supplemental draft. The Fire has the 30th, 49th and 68th selections.
-- Coach Frank Klopas and forward Patrick Nyarko have been named among the honorees at the 15th annual CSN Awards dinner on Jan. 24 at the Chicago Hilton & Towers.
-- At least one more player wont return to the club this season. The club decided not to bring back Mexican forward Guillermo Franco, a late season acquisition in 2012. The veteran played in three matches, for a combined 43 minutes, during the stretch run but made little impact.

Fire draft two Charlotte 49ers to close out draft

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USA TODAY

Fire draft two Charlotte 49ers to close out draft

The Chicago Fire drafted three players in the first two rounds of the MLS draft on Friday and added another two players in the draft's final two rounds on Tuesday.

The Fire selected two players out of Charlotte in the final two rounds. Midfielder Brandt Bronico went with the third pick in the third round, No. 47 overall, and defender Matej Dekovic was picked with the third pick in the fourth round, No. 69 overall.

Bronico was a key cog all four years at Charlotte. He was a three-time First-Team Conference USA selection and Conference USA Player of the Year as a senior. He totaled 25 goals and 23 assists in four years, including nine goals and five assists in 18 matches as a senior. He had eight goals and 10 assists as a junior.

Bronico also scored an eye-catching goal on the final day of the MLS Combine.

Dekovic is a defender born in Zagreb, Croatia. He was a First-Team Conference USA pick this fall while playing at left back. The Fire don't have much depth currently at outside back, but Dekovic's status as an international player will give him an uphill battle to make the team.

The Fire open preseason camp in six days on Monday, Jan. 23.

Fire trade for midfielder Dax McCarty

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USA TODAY

Fire trade for midfielder Dax McCarty

Midfield has been an area of focus this offseason for Chicago Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez and another new addition to that group was added on Monday.

The Fire have traded $400,000 in general allocation money in return for midfielder Dax McCarty from the New York Red Bulls. Paul Tenorio of Four Four Two first reported the trade.

McCarty was an All-Star in 2015 and part of the league's Best XI that season when he had eight assists to go with a goal. Last season he made 26 starts for the Red Bulls and totaled three goals and had five assists.

"Since the middle of 2016, we made acquiring Dax our No. 1 priority," Rodríguez said in the club's press release. "We believe adding his character and leadership in the locker room, as well as his exceptional soccer abilities on the field, dramatically improves our team."

The last time McCarty played at Toyota Park was a 2-2 draw on July 31 when a Khaly Thiam tackle caused a fractured tibia, which forced McCarty to sit out a month.

McCarty got married on Saturday, which delayed his arrival to the current U.S. national team camp. McCarty's participation in national team camp means he will join the Fire's preseason already in progress. The final match of the camp is on Feb. 3 while the Fire are set to start preseason on January 23.

McCarty, 29, has spent the past five and a half seasons with the Red Bulls. He began his career by playing five seasons for FC Dallas and was with D.C. United for part of the 2011 campaign before being traded to the Red Bulls. As an 11-year league veteran and the Red Bulls' captain, McCarty adds leadership and experience which Rodriguez has prioritized this offseason.

The Fire already added a former MLS All-Star in midfield this offseason in Juninho. The pair could line up next to each other in the preferred 4-2-3-1 coach Veljko Paunovic used for most of last season. This also could potentially put Matt Polster's role with the team in question. As the roster stands now, the third-year midfielder would be competing for two veteran All-Star caliber midfielders who were brought in at a high price.

Not to suggest a position move is in the works for Polster, but he did split time between midfield and right back with the Fire in 2015 under coach Frank Yallop and played there for the U-23 national team in Olympic qualifying. Right back remains a position of need by Rodriguez's own admission.

The trade also adds further context to the Fire trading the No. 3 pick in the draft on Friday. The Fire swapped the pick for $250,000 in general allocation money from New York City FC and Tenorio is reporting the Fire will send $400,000 to the Red Bulls for McCarty. To add those two moves together, the Fire dealt the No. 3 overall pick and $150,000 of allocation money for McCarty.