The first-ever MLS SuperDraft to be staged in the city of Chicago came and went on Friday without any of the draftees extending their stay in the Windy City.
Chicago Fire President and GM Nelson Rodríguez and his technical staff began the day with the No. 5 and No. 32 overall selections, but ultimately negotiated a trio of transactions that secured a total of $150,000 in General Allocation Money and the rights to a New York Red Bulls player to be named later.
- Watch: Rodríguez wraps up Friday's action
- Photos: MLS SuperDraft in Chicago
- More: Complete recap of transactions
“We’re pleased,” Rodríguez told the hometown media after the 48th and final selection had been made. “We feel we’ve come out of here with an important amount of money that helps us in some of the other roster moves we’ll look to fulfill. We also got a player who we believe is ready to contribute to the first team, maybe not as a starter but as an important piece, so overall I think it was a good day for us.
After evaluating the most highly regarded prospects of the 206 draft-eligible players at the MLS Combine in Orlando, the Fire remained interested in holding onto their picks, and even attempted to move up from the No. 5 position. Come draft-day, however, Rodríguez received compelling offers that could facilitate future acquisitions from inside and outside of the league.
“We received a few different offers for the No. 5 overall,” Rodríguez said. “We settled on Colorado’s offer, which kept us in the first round, because there were a few players we were interested in acquiring. Again, we were solicited for that selection (No. 15 overall) and we were solicited for the second-round selection (No. 32) as well. We were fortunate enough to make those work.
“We believe our needs are very specific that we’re trying to fill,” he continued. “There were a few players that we thought could help us, but ultimately, in the first deal that we made, we thought that getting that amount of money was worth it. Later on, we felt the same, and then as I mentioned we’re optimistic about the player we acquired.”
As for players whose services are still yet to be secured for 2019, Rodríguez affirmed Friday that the club remains in ongoing negotiations with targets at goalkeeper, centerback and in the attacking third. The club also remains in talks with out-of-contract players Johan Kappelhof and Matt Polster, though their futures in Chicago remain undetermined.
The SuperDraft will conclude Monday with the third and fourth rounds -- in which the Fire are due to pick at No. 53 and No. 77 overall -- but the lion’s share of attention will now rest squarely on which ongoing contract discussions bear fruit, before and after the start of Veljko Paunovic’s fourth preseason training camp with the Fire on Jan. 21.
“I think that coming out of here with $150,000 of General Allocation Money and a player is a good day for us,” Rodríguez said. "The first hope is to use it to acquire, or as part of acquisition for, other players. We’re engaged with five or six different players around the world. We would like to have as close to a full roster for the start of our preseason as possible. We’re in a position to have that be true, but you’ve got to get the deals over the line.”