Nelson Rodriguez says Gilberto is staying with the Fire, for now

Nelson Rodriguez says Gilberto is staying with the Fire, for now

It’s no secret Gilberto has struggled to score goals for the Chicago Fire this season.

The Brazilian forward hasn’t scored yet and was absent in the Fire’s last game before the Copa America break for “personal reasons.”

During a conference call with media on Monday, general manager Nelson Rodriguez addressed the rumors concerning what Gilberto’s absence against Portland on May 28 means for his future. The team took a week off from training during the past week and returned to practice on Monday.

“Over the course of the break, I checked in with Gilberto again,” Rodriguez said. “At that time he still indicated to me that he was not in a state of mind that was his best. He has left me to draw the conclusion that for the moment, we need to continue to try to work with him as a person.”

Whether this is simply a buildup of frustration over his or the team’s performance or is genuinely a personal matter that is affecting Gilberto was not made clear.

“We will work with Gilberto individually as we try to get him back into a form that can help us,” Rodriguez said. “Our preference has always been to be scoring goals for our team. That’s always been our preference. That’s something that I expressed to his agent not long ago. There’s a human side to this and a professional side to it. They get blurred a little bit in this situation as well.

“We’ll see what we can do to help Gilberto.”

Rodriguez does make it sound like a personal matter, but rumors have surfaced about a possible exit, either via transfer to another club or a buyout. For now, Rodriguez said there has been no contact with any teams in Gilberto’s native Brazil.

“Gilberto has from time-to-time expressed his desire to return to Brazil and play in Brazil,” Rodriguez said. “It’s unclear whether that’s now or at the end of his contract or in the future, but we have not spoken to any clubs in Brazil about Gilberto’s services.”

Gilberto is in Chicago as the team returns to training. The team plays an intrasquad scrimmage on Thursday, which will also feature the Fire’s PDL team, and how much he participates in that could be an indication of how close he is or is not to returning to game action.

His absence in the short-term would at the very least hurt the forward depth for the Fire, which is already thin in terms of sheer numbers. Michael de Leeuw is expected to join the team in training later this week, but isn’t eligible to play until July 9.

“I would just say we move on when we can,” coach Veljko Paunovic said regarding Gilberto’s absence. “We have guys who can perform.”

Rodriguez did leave an opening, if only in a roundabout way, to a potential Gilberto exit when asked if the team had explored trying to buy out his contract. Gilberto is one of 23 players in Major League Soccer who makes more than $1 million annually according to the MLS Players Union.

“We’ve not had that discussion with Gilberto or his representatives,” Rodriguez said. “Every option always has to be on the table. At some point if we can’t get him to be productive and scoring goals for us, we have to look at anything that is available to us or that we create for ourselves.”

Dax McCarty ready to 'soak in the moment' in his return to Red Bull Arena

Dax McCarty ready to 'soak in the moment' in his return to Red Bull Arena

When Dax McCarty was traded from the New York Red Bulls to the Chicago Fire in January it was the third time in his 12-year MLS career that he had been traded, but this was the one that affected him the most.

McCarty had been with the Red Bulls for five and a half years, the longest he had been with any team, and leaving New York was not easy for him even though he had been traded before. So when McCarty's new team, the Fire, visit the Red Bulls on Saturday, it won't just be an ordinary game for the 29-year-old midfielder.

"I'd say the Red Bulls meant more to me than any other team that I've been on so far," McCarty said. "In that sense it will probably be a little bit different, but I think the key to just trying to make it as normal as possible is just to treat it like another game, treat it like another three points that you have to try to win against a good team on the road. I just want to make sure that the game doesn't become too big about my return."

When McCarty was traded he had just gotten married and was immediately after headed to training camp with the U.S. national team. He was initially vocal about his frustration in how the Red Bulls handled the trade, but soon after that he didn't want to talk about that aspect of the trade anymore.

With Saturday's match marking his return to Red Bull Arena, the focus shifts back to McCarty and the trade. Now, he wants to focus on the personal side of the trade, the people that are no longer an everyday part of his life. He mentioned security guards, chefs and maintenance crew among the people he will be happy to see again.

"I don't think I got to say a proper goodbye to a lot of the guys on the team and I don't think I got to say a proper goodbye to the fans and the way that they treated me when I was in New York so I'll soak in the environment, I'll soak in the moment," McCarty said. "Hopefully I don't get too many boos.

"Whether we win, lose or draw I want to take in the time after the game to make sure the Red Bull fans know how much they meant to me in my time there. I'll try to go around the stadium and whatever few fans stick around after the game I'll wave and say thank you for supporting me during my time there."

He said his former Red Bulls teammates are some of his best friends and he keeps in touch with many of them. Going up against them and heading to the other locker room will be different.

"Those are guys I went to battle with for a long time and those are guys that I'll probably be friends for life with some of them," McCarty said. "Certainly seeing them on the other side, it will be weird, but it's going to be an enjoyable moment I think. Once the 90 minutes hits and once we step on the field it's going to be a dog fight."

McCarty's two previous trades, from Dallas to D.C. via Portland's expansion draft pick after the 2010 season and from D.C. to the Red Bulls in June of 2011, were very different. After spending five years in Dallas, he was traded by D.C. United after less than half a season.

"I'd say the only time it really was kind of a little bit surreal and kind of emotional was when I went back to Dallas because I was in Dallas for a really long time," McCarty said. "That club meant a lot to me. I wasn't really in D.C. for very long and we played New York so much. It was weird because I got traded from D.C. to New York and I think we played them two or three games after the trade and it was in the middle of the season so that was kind of just a whirlwind.

"Going back to Dallas for the first time, being back in the stadium and seeing the fans and going into the visitors' locker room, all that stuff that comes with it is definitely strange.

Despite his experience with being traded and returning to a former team, McCarty is still expecting it to hit him on Saturday.

"I'll say it's definitely going to be a strange feeling."

Fire Talk Podcast: Dax McCarty returns to his old home

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Fire Talk Podcast: Dax McCarty returns to his old home

In this episode of the Fire Talk Podcast, Dan Santaromita and Shane Murray (MLSsoccer.com) recap the Fire's 3-1 loss at Toronto and look ahead to the game at the New York Red Bulls.

Dax McCarty, a former Red Bulls player, returns to his former home. Hear him talk about returning home in an interview after practice on Tuesday.

Also, Dan and Shane talk about the release of player salaries by the MLS Players Union and Bastian Schweinsteiger's visit to Fire Weekly.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: