BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The Chicago Fire continued to develop the team’s roster for a playoff push with Friday’s signing of veteran Welsh international forward Robert Earnshaw on a free transfer.
Earnshaw last played for English Championship side Blackpool but spent the entire 2013 season with MLS side Toronto FC, tallying eight goals in 26 appearances for Toronto FC last year.
The 33-year-old forward joins a Fire side that has been in need of another forward, with only Mike Magee, Quincy Amarikwa and Matt Fondy as the three out-and-out strikers on the team before Friday’s announcement.
“He’s going to add to the mixture of forwards we have,” Fire head coach Frank Yallop said via phone from Montreal. “The big thing for me is that he’s been in the league before. He’ll hit the ground running and that’s important.”
No doubt Magee and Amarikwa have logged a lot of minutes as starting forwards of late and Earnshaw will give Yallop and staff the opportunity to bring one of the three off the bench to provide a bigger spark in offense.
Beyond spreading out playing time, with the Fire unable to score more than one goal in a league match dating back to June 7, Yallop admitted reinforcements were needed.
“He’s dangerous, he’s a goal scorer and we need help up front. We’ve gotten dry lately, it’s no one’s fault but we need help in that department.”
While the Fire added Romanian international Razvan Cocis, traded for winger Sanna Nyassi and signed Fondy this summer, Yallop last week admitted disappointment at having a deal with an Argentine forward, reportedly Silvio Romero of Lanus, fall through just before the transfer window deadline.
While that move didn’t work out, Yallop said Earnshaw was one of the other players he and Technical Director Brian Bliss had been targeting. Because of his free agent status, the club was able to sign the Welshman outside of the MLS transfer window which closed last week.
“It’s been ongoing. Different guys we’ve been talking about, him being one. It made sense and obviously with our cap being what it is, we wanted someone that could be effective at a number that could fit.”
Earnshaw hinted at his potential move to the Fire on Wednesday, tweeting the below message.
Hopefully I can give you some breaking news today.stay tuned.....— Robert Earnshaw (@RobertEarnshaw) August 13, 2014
Yallop has been familiar with Earnshaw during his career in the English Premier League and Championship with Cardiff City, West Bromwich Albion, Derby County and Nottingham Forest.
“I’ve know Robbie for a number of years. I tried to get him in San Jose before he went to Toronto, that didn’t quite work out but I feel he’ll be good to help out the rest of the season and hopefully the following year.”
Earnshaw is signed with the Fire through the end of the season, with an option for 2015.
With the Fire sitting just two points out of the MLS Cup playoffs with 12 matches remaining, the onus will be to get Earnshaw on the field as soon as possible. While he won’t suit up for the Fire Saturday in Montreal, there is hope that he could make his club debut against his former team Toronto FC, next Saturday.
And he appears to have kept in decent shape over the European offseason, saying in an interview with WalesOnline.com on Monday “I’ve kept myself fit and it won’t take me long to regain full match fitness.”