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In Uruguay's Arevalo Rios, Chicago Fire ink dynamic central midfield Designated Player

Arevalo Rios with the Uruguayan national team

Photo Credit: 
Action Photos

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – A picture of a Chicago Fire jersey with the name “Cacha” appeared on the Internet on Wednesday evening as rumors about the Fire signing Arévalo Ríos, known as “El Cacha,” picked up.

The Uruguayan national team midfielder, who was under contract with Palermo, had plenty of options to play in Europe and Mexico, but he made it clear that coming to Chicago was his top option. Complications held off the deal until Wednesday night, but when he tweeted the picture of the jersey that Fire assistant coach Leo Percovich sent him shortly after he played in the Confederations Cup, the Fire could finally breathe easy.

“That was one of the key moments, when he really was committed to saying, 'No everybody, I already have the jersey for the Chicago Fire,'” Percovich said. “That is the kind of type of player that you have. The most important thing is that you keep your word.”

Ríos' desire to play for the Fire was the main thrust behind a deal that will keep him in Chicago on loan as a Designated Player until the end of the year. The club will have an option to keep Ríos next season.

“They opened the door for me and I was very committed to coming here,” Ríos said through a translator. “I had different options, but I really believe in this organization. … Since I played in the Confederations Cup, I knew I really wanted to come here.”

The 31-year-old will be added to the roster when the Fire have an available international spot. Dutch forward Sherjill MacDonald has expressed his desire to move to another club and the Fire want to appease him, so an open slot could arrive shortly.

Chicago already had plenty of depth in the middle of the field, with a combination of Jeff Larentowicz, Logan Pause, Alex and Daniel Paladini starting at different times throughout the season.

But the World Cup veteran, who also has 46 caps and an Olympics under his belt, expressed genuine interest in coming to Chicago, the Fire knew they couldn't pass the deal up. Frank Klopas said not to peg him as a stay-at-home defensive midfielder, either.

“You see him a lot when he plays with the national team, I think his role was a little bit different when he was in Italy with Palermo, he was more of a two-way guy, the same with Tijuana when he won a championship when he played there,” Klopas said.

“He can do both. He brings a lot of good qualities without the ball and with the ball, a tremendous amount of experience, and the mentality, he's just a competitive guy. Look at him, I don't want to play against this guy.”

Ríos will likely start next to Larentowicz in a similar role Pável Pardo filled next to Pause in 2011 and 2012, and Klopas said he'll be ready to play as soon as he's added to the roster.

Chicago hope that a deal that was over a month in the making pays off in the form of a formidable central midfield. Because of Ríos' strong desire to be in Chicago, they're optimistic that he'll make that type of impact.

“He kept reaching out to us and saying, I'm really learning more about Chicago, I'm watching more of your games … and he kept on saying to us, 'I really want to go to Chicago,'” team president of soccer operations Javier Leon told MLSsoccer.com. “He wanted to come, and I think there's something very powerful when someone has that kind of commitment.”