Oduro scores in preseason opener

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Oduro scores in preseason opener

AVE MARIA, FL. If nothing else the Fires first preseason game proved one thing on Sunday. Dominic Oduro can still score.
The striker from Ghana was the clubs Golden Boot winner in 2011 after coming in an early-season trade with the Houston Dynamo. He was also a finalist for Comeback Player-of-the-Year in Major League Soccer, but his scoring tailed off last season and he wasnt a starter when the campaign ended.
Oduro wasnt in coach Frank Klopas first 11 on Sunday either, but he scored the first goal and set up the other in a 2-0 win over Florida Gulf Coast College. The match, played at Brown Park on the campus of Ave Maria University, was contested in three 30-minute periods. Klopas used 28 of the 32 players on his preseason roster.
"To get a game was good, to get opposition other than ourselves, said Klopas. "But this is preseason. Legs are heavy, and from a mental standpoint weve got to get stronger because preseason is a lot shorter than last year. Some players were a little bit better than others.
Klopas didnt want to go into who was better than who, but Oduro and Paladini took on a heavier workload. Both returnees played 60 minutes. Oduro scored unassisted in the 39th minute when he pounced on a loose ball in the box after a Fire corner kick and tapped it into an open net.
Eight minutes later he set up Paladini, who had an open shot for a 2-0 lead.
Oduro, though, will have to remain productive to earn his starting spot back. Chris Rolfe and Sherjill MacDonald were paired up top in the first 30 minutes. Oduros first partner in the second 30-minute segment was Maicon Santos, who was picked up in the re-entry draft from D.C. United.
Klopas didnt use Patrick Nyarko, who arrived in camp late. Still yet to report are goalkeeper Sean Johnson, in training with the U.S. national team; Corben Bone, in training with Atletico Madrid; and Arne Friedrich, who was given permission to join the club in California.
Alec Kann, a trialist, was given the start in goal and played with a veteran lineup the first 30 minutes. Joining Rolfe and MacDonald were midfielders Joel Lindpere, Jeff Larentowicz, Logan Pause, Wells Thompson and Alex. The defenders were Jalil Anibaba, Austin Berry and Gonzalo Segares.
The Fire opened training at Ave Maria on Jan. 20 and will finish up here on Tuesday before heading to Bradenton, FL., and the first preseason match against an MLS rival. The Fire will face the Columbus Crew at IMG Academy before heading back to Chicago. The players and staff will get a brief break before heading to Ventura, Calif., for the second phase of the preseason.

MLS commissioner Don Garber confirms expansion of targeted allocation money

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USA TODAY

MLS commissioner Don Garber confirms expansion of targeted allocation money

Major League Soccer isn’t shy when it comes to creating extra layers of rules within its salary cap.

Last year targeted allocation money became one of the new tools/crazy acronyms. The Chicago Fire used some of that to keep the salary cap hit lower on players like Michael de Leeuw and Johan Kappelhof. Kappelhof and de Leeuw were two of the more productive acquisitions the Fire made in the past year and teams around the league have had similar success stories with the recently infused funds.

Commissioner Don Garber confirmed on Friday in a press conference ahead of Saturday’s MLS Cup that the league will add more TAM for 2017. Garber said each team will receive a total of $1.2 million.

In 2016 teams were given $800,000 to work with. What this does is give teams more flexibility on the league’s soft cap of $3.6 million.

SI’s Grant Wahl first reported TAM's expansion.

Garber didn’t make any big announcements at the press conference in Toronto, site of the Toronto-Seattle final. However, he did say that despite adding two more teams to the league, Atlanta and Minnesota, the playoff format will not change in 2017. A majority of the league, 12 out of 22 teams, will still make the playoffs.

As rumors pile up, Fire GM Nelson Rodriguez says team has a "sense of urgency"

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USA TODAY

As rumors pile up, Fire GM Nelson Rodriguez says team has a "sense of urgency"

As the beginnings of a cold Chicago winter start to take hold of the city, the rumor mill has started to heat up for the Chicago Fire.

Major League Soccer’s clubs are not able to make official moves until after MLS Cup takes place on Dec. 10, which means rumors will remain just that for another week and a half. So when Fire general manager was asked about a potential Sean Johnson trade, as was reported yesterday, he wasn’t able to comment in a substantive way.

“Sean had a good season for us,” Rodriguez said Friday afternoon. “There’s a trade moratorium until after MLS Cup and like every player on the team we’re constantly evaluating opportunities and possibilities.”

Compare that to what Rodriguez said last December about transfer rumors involving David Accam and it’s not hard to notice the difference. Rodriguez vehemently denied anything regarding Accam then and the Ghanaian stayed. This time around regarding Johnson, Rodriguez said the team is “evaluating opportunities.” There is a three-hour trade window on Dec. 11 in advance of the expansion draft for Atlanta and Minnesota on Dec. 12.

Rodriguez said there have been discussions about trades before the expansion draft.

“We have been having several conversations with a few different teams,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve called and inquired about players and discussed possibilities about acquiring players and also have received calls from teams inquiring about our players. I think there’s a general mood around the league that people want to get those deals done in advance of the expansion draft so that they know who they’re protecting and otherwise.”

Teams will be able to protect 11 players and homegrown players will not be eligible for selection. As the roster currently stands, the Fire have 17 players under contract and four homegrown players so only two players would be left unprotected and that’s before a potential Johnson trade.

As far as acquiring players from outside the league, Rodriguez said the staff has been busy scouting both college games and foreign leagues. Coach Veljko Paunovic and assistant Marko Mitrovic “remain abroad” while scout Matt Pearson has returned after watching players live in October and November.

Nothing seems to have changed in regards to what Rodriguez said the team needs. He still spoke of “players who represent leadership, experience, poise on the ball, particularly in the central midfield slots,” and a “gamebreaker” who can create or score a goal.

Some of the rumored names this offseason are of a higher profile than last winter. While following through on such moves is all that matters, Rodriguez said things are different in the way the front office has approached this offseason.

“I think what we all feel is a sense of urgency that we need to win,” Rodriguez said. “We need to prove that we can win and we need to win consistently. That’s our mindset.”

Rodriguez, assistant Logan Pause and goalkeeper coach Aleksandar Saric have been scouting college games. Rodriguez said the decision to sign homegrown players from college has not yet been made. The plan is to wait until the end of the college season for all teams to talk with coaches and families of prospects. North Carolina freshmen Cam Lindley and Mauricio Pineda, Indiana junior Grand Lillard and Indiana sophomore Andrew Gutman are some of the Fire’s top prospects in college. Indiana was recently eliminated from the NCAA Tournament, but UNC’s Elite Eight game is tonight.

As for some of the players the Fire declined options on last week, there is a chance that some will return like the way Razvan Cocis did last season after the Fire didn’t pick up his option.

“We are still in discussions on a few of the players whose options we did not select, but we’re still talking to them to see if the possibility to bring them back still exists,” Rodriguez said.