On Fire: Chicago could be going Dutch after Robayo loan

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill.  Chicago Fire midfielder Rafael Robayo is heading back to Millonarios on loan, the club announced on Thursday.

The Fire acquired the midfielder from the Colombian club in the offseason, but he was never able to work his way into a consistent spot in the starting lineup.

“This opportunity allows Rafael to return to his former club,” Fire head coach Frank Klopas said in a release. “Rafael is a good professional and we wish him the best in his next step.”

The Colombian tweeted early this week that he was hoping for a move back to his former squad where he made 187 appearances over seven seasons, but on Thursday he said discussions about the move were completely between the clubs.

He leaves the team after making 16 appearances, three of which were starts. He didn’t register a goal or an assist.

“It’s been a challenge and a really good experience," Robayo told MLSsoccer.com through a translator after Thursday’s practice before the move was official. "It’s helped me to see how I measure up. I’ve taken note of the speed and the skill. I followed the league before, with Juan Carlos Osorio at the helm and Wilman Conde, but it’s been a great experience.”

South American exodus

Robayo is the third South American player to leave the team this month. 

Sebastián Grazzini left the club early in the month to take care of “personal issues” in his home country of Argentina. Klopas said this week that there was no update on the creative midfielder’s situation.

The team loaned Designated Player Federico Puppo to Uruguayan side Defensor Sporting Club on Tuesday, opening up an international roster spot for newly acquired Dutch DP Sherjill MacDonald.

Klopas said the club would keep an eye on the 25-year-old forward during the loan spell.

“We’ll see how it goes," Klopas said. "He needs to play, and he wasn’t getting the time here. We’re going to track and follow him to see how he’s developing.”

More moves coming?

The Fire may not be done making moves. 

Dutch midfielder Gianluca Nijholt is currently on trial with the team, and multiple outlets have reported that the Fire are negotiating with the 22-year-old, who plays for Eredivisie side FC Utrecht. Nijholt made 15 appearances and scored seven goals while on loan last season with Dutch second-division side Almere City.

Robayo’s departure opens up the necessary international roster spot to sign their second Dutch player this week.

“We have some things that we’re working on, but you never know,” Klopas said. “If they work, that’s great, but sometimes things don’t work out last second. But we’re crossing our fingers and we’re hoping to provide some more options and depth for the team.”