The Chicago Fire front office has a lot of work to do. A recent rash of retirements, Expansion Draft selections, releases and free-agent departures has decimated the club’s roster, leaving the team with just 19 senior players.
Technical director Frank Klopas, director of player personnel Mike Jeffries and head coach Carlos de los Cobos are searching far and wide trying to fill the remaining 11 spots, taking multiple scouting trips to Europe and South America over the last few weeks as they try to improve their team.
But the Fire’s brain trust doesn’t need to rack up the frequent flyer miles to find quality players – 32 are right here at home, available for selection in Wednesday’s Stage 2 Re-Entry draft.
Chicago, who will select seventh, should be taking a good, long look at one player in particular: former Kansas City center back Jimmy Conrad.
[inline_node:312294]While Conrad, who will be 34 when the 2011 season starts, is a big cap hit and not the player he was in his prime, he remains a good MLS defender. And, assuming that he’s willing to renegotiate to a lower salary if picked up by the Fire, he effectively fills a few of Chicago’s biggest needs.
The biggest hole Conrad would fill – or at least help fill – is Chicago’s lack of depth at center back. The Fire lost both of their starting central defenders this offseason (C.J. Brown retired and Wilman Conde left via free agency), meaning unproven youngster Kwame Watson-Siriboe is the lone remaining center back on the team. That, obviously, is not enough. Adding the 2006 World Cup vet would help alleviate this problem.
But drafting Conrad would do more than help solve the Fire’s depth issues: It would also provide the locker room with another leader. That’s somewhat important – especially considering vocal presences Brown, Brian McBride and John Thorrington are now all gone.
Picking up Conrad would also give Watson-Siriboe a teammate to look up to. The second-year player showed flashes of decent technical ability in 11 appearances in 2010, but he needs to improve the mental side of his game, something with which Conrad could undoubtedly help him.
Conrad might be a step slower and not quite as good in the air as he once was, but he’s still a decent player – and one the Fire should consider selecting on Wednesday.
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.
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