Pardo announces his retirement

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Pardo announces his retirement

AVE MARIA, FL. The Fire caught flight to the first phase of preseason training on Sunday with one notable absentee. Pavel Pardo, the legendary Mexican midfielder, announced his retirement before the flight took off for this small college town on the outskirts of Naples.

Pardos retirement was no surprise. At the age of 36, he had been considering it for some time and the Fires acquisition of Jeff Larentowicz in a trade with the Colorado Rapids last week made the decision more clear-cut.

Still, Pardos 19-year professional career was filled with brilliant moments and he was always a class act.

The second-most capped player in the history of Mexicos national team, Pardo was one of the greatest international stars of his era. He played in 148 matches for Mexico after being a mainstay for Atlas and Club America.

Fire coach Frank Klopas, admitting Pardo has been a "fantastic" player, felt the need to build for the future and the recent acquisitions of Larentowicz and New York midfielder Joel Lindpere meant that Pardos role would be inevitably diminished. He had partnered with captain Logan Pause for much of the last two seasons and was a key component in the Fires revival after missing the Major League Soccer playoffs in 2010 and 2011.

For the Fire and its fans having Pardo on the roster though for only 41 matches was an honor. He joined international stars of the past like Peter Nowak, Hristo Stoitchkov, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Brian McBride, Freddie Ljungberg and Arne Friedrich in wearing the Fire jersey and made great contributions to the team.

Fire owner Andrew Hauptman said it was "truly a great experience having Pavel Pardo represent the Chicago Fire on and off the field."

President of soccer operations Javier Leon also lauded Pardos performance in MLS during the twilight of his career.

Pardo arrived in the middle of the 2011 season, one in which the Fire won just two of their first 20 MLS matches and had turned to Klopas as head coach. The club finished 7-2-1 in the last 10 matches to finish at the .500 level (9-9-16) and barely missed postseason play. The team's playoff slumber ended in 2012.

Although Pardo is ready for his next step off the field, his decision to call it quits didn't come easily.

"It was a difficult decision," he admitted. "The journey has been exciting, and Im proud of the things Ive accomplished."

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.