Chicago Fire Shower Thoughts - 1/11
Photo by Steve Limentani/ISI Photos via Getty Images

The 2023 MLS season is starting to sneak up on people. 

The hectic holiday period is over, and we’re nearly two weeks into 2023 already. It’s still about two months until the campaign kicks off for clubs across the country, but that is only two months. My season preview is going to be due before I know it. 

The Chicago Fire, as per usual, have been a bit quiet. They've announced the signing of French defender Arnaud Souquet, but other than that and a pretty standard swap deal, there’s not been much. Even the rumor mill has been a bit meh.

As a result there’s not much to write home about, or write about in general when it comes to the side. There are some breadcrumbs, at least, so that’s why I’m back here with this sort of article.

Free agency watch

While most of the marquee free agents have been taken off the board, there are still a few names left who could come in and really help the Fire.

A tweet from Tom Bogert highlighted such players, like Alex Callens, Sean Johnson, Ola Kamara, Bill Hamid, and Tommy Thompson

Callens isn’t really an option since Chicago has enough bodies at the back, while Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid could only come in if the club doesn’t trust Chris Brady to start this season.

That leaves Kamara and Thompson, and the Fire should be going after both of them.

I’m a bit biased when it comes to Ola Kamara, as I’m simply a huge fan. He’s been a consistent goalscorer in MLS for a while now, and he scored one of my favorite goals in league history.

However, Chicago signing him still makes sense. They kind of already know who’ll be their starting striker in 2023, as it’ll either be Jhon Durán or the Designated Player who replaces him. They’ll still need a backup, though, and that’s where Kamara comes into play. (I know Kacper Przybyłko is still on the roster right now but he should be dealt away before the campaign begins.)

He knows how to find the back of the net at this level. It doesn’t matter how much he plays, who he plays with, or even where he plays. The former Norwegian international scores goals, and having him as an option off the bench or as an occasional starter would be huge for the Fire.

Tommy Thompson’s impact would be on the other side of the pitch. At one point he was one of the brightest prospects in the entire league, and there was hope he’d go on to feature for the United States men’s national team. That never came to be, though, and his development was hampered by the San Jose Earthquakes.

All that aside, there’s still something there when it comes to the American. He’s a fullback, and everyone knows how badly Chicago needs depth in that part of the field at the moment. He’s also quite versatile, as he can stay back and focus on the defensive side of the game, but he also has an ability to create on the ball further up the field. 

If he can come close to realizing the potential he once had, Thompson would become a constant starter at right back, and he’d do so on a relatively cheap deal. He’d even have a personal connection with the club since he’s from Hinsdale, Illinois.

The problem with all this is that sporting director Georg Heitz doesn’t like making moves within MLS. His experience is in Europe, and that’s where he likes to find his players. However, if he can capitalize on the free agent pool, then the Fire could gain a few potentially key pieces going into 2023.

Then again, San Jose re-signed Thompson while I was working on this article, so it might be too little too late already. Please get Ola Kamara at least.

Duality of man

At one point #cf97 Twitter got so bored that they decided to argue about Miguel Navarro

Taking place at the end of last week, there were a number of different tweets in a number of different threads about the player. Some were defending the Venezuelan, while others were criticizing him. It was the duality of man on show.

It all culminated in a poll that asked a simple question. Is Miguel Navarro a good starting left back? Well, that didn’t even lead to a clear answer, as 51.1% of the answers were yes, while 48.9% were no. The replies were more of the same, with a bunch of people saying he was inbetween.

My opinion? He’s just not good enough.

In Navarro’s defense, he’s still only 23-years-old, so there’s time and room for improvement. He’s arguably not being used in his best position either. His attacking tendencies and workrate would suit him much better as a wingback in a back five system, but he’s been forced to play as a standard left back in a back four.

However, for what Chicago needs right now, he’s not the answer. The number 6 is a liability defensively, as he either gets dribbled past by a player on the ball, or he loses his marker who’s running off the ball. He’s not a gifted tackler, and couple that with some rash decision making and you get a defender who cannot be trusted.

This might be more forgivable if Navarro was an asset going forward, like Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold. He’s not, though. He only had one assist all year despite all the runs he made up the field. When he gets in a good position, he either makes a cautious pass back or he hits an aimless cross into the area.

The biggest indictment of his play was the fact that I felt Jonathan Bornstein was better whenever he got the nod last season. He brought defensive stability to the side, and things seemed more calm at the back when he played. He was 37 years old.

He’s gone, and so is Andre Reynolds, so Navarro is all the Fire has left at the moment. They know they need to make a signing before the season, and they have to decide on whether they want to bring in a backup or a starting caliber player. It has to be the latter.

Navarro isn’t the worst player, of course, so he’ll still be able to contribute to the side as a piece of depth. You just can’t have him be your go-to left back if you want to be a genuine contender in MLS.

GOAT talk

Who is the greatest Fire player of all time?

People love talking about who the GOAT is in any particular sport or team or league or pretty much anything.

It was a popular topic during the recent World Cup when Lionel Messi cemented himself as the greatest soccer player ever following his victorious campaign with Argentina. If you mention Michael Jordan or LeBron James to most basketball fans there’s a good chance someone will start arguing with you about one or the other.

I’ve not really seen much discourse when it comes to Chicago’s greatest. It’s not as hot of a topic, to be fair, and the club has only existed for a little over 25 years.

However, the Fire do have a number of all-time greats that have featured for them. Piotr Nowak is probably the GOAT for most supporters, as he was the key man in that historic 1998 side. Luboš Kubík anchored that same team at the back with the monstrous Zach Thorton behind him. Others were a part of that team and stuck around for several years afterward, like Chris Armas, Jesse Marsch, and CJ Brown. Ante Razov left in 2004, but he stayed long enough to smash the club’s goalscoring record. 

A few big players came in a little bit later. Hristo Stoichkov joined Chicago after winning the Ballon D’Or. Carlos Bocanegra and DaMarcus Beasley started their careers in the Windy City before departing for Europe. 

The other big nominee is Cuauhtémoc Blanco, who arrived midway through the 2000’s. The Mexican superstar came to the Fire at the tail end of his career, but that didn’t stop him from dominating the league for a few years. He still is the face of the franchise for many who started supporting Chicago during that time, and he left a real legacy despite not winning any silverware.

All the names mentioned earlier played before my time, so I don’t really have a say on the matter. My personal GOAT? Nemanja Nikolić. I had never seen a Fire player have such an impact on the side before he showed up, and I haven’t seen anyone come close to him ever since. At one point it felt like I would go to a game, watch Niko score, and then I’d go back home happy. I miss him so much.

The real answer to the question of who is Chicago’s greatest of all time is actually Shaun Maloney if he wasn’t wasted by Frank Yallop. I will defend Maloney for as long as I can.

Also shoutout to Frank Klopas. He’s been a player, a head coach, a commentator, and an assistant coach for the Fire. He is the closest thing this organization has to that one uncle everyone loves.

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