BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – General manager Nelson Rodriguez has insisted the Chicago Fire “will be a better team” on Thursday whether they keep or trade their coveted No. 1 overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft.
The Fire hold picks No. 1, No. 33, No. 57 and No. 62 heading into Thursday’s draft in Baltimore (1 pm ET, live stream on MLSsoccer.com), and have already rejected one of three firm offers for the first pick.
Rodriguez spoke for more than 30 minutes in Tuesday’s teleconference with local and national media, where he revealed that he and head coach Veljko Paunovic remain open to a trade that could see them bring in a player with a proven track record ahead of top draft talent like Georgetown’s Joshua Yaro, Wake Forest’s Jack Harrison and Stanford’s Brandon Vincent.
With center back already identified by Rodriguez as a priority this offseason, the versatile and highly regarded Yaro would appear to meet most of the Fire’s current needs, but Rodriguez revealed that the Fire are prepared to listen to offers for the opening pick of the class of 2016.
“We're definitely open to trading it and we're definitely not there yet,” Rodriguez said on Tuesday from Florida, where he and Paunovic had been watching the last of this year’s MLS Combine games. “We have not made a decision as to who that selection would be if we keep it. We believe that there are some very interesting players, all of who would help our squad.”
“As has been the case every year as you get closer to the Draft, intensity and scrutiny of the No. 1 pick heightens,” he added. “Just [Tuesday], while at the field watching the last set of Combine games, we received two offers for the No. 1 pick.
“There's also three or four other teams that have inquired about the pick, and I suspect in the next 24-48 hours that if we don't reach agreement to trade the pick, there will be one last attempt by someone to secure it. What I know about the No. 1 pick is, whether we keep it or we move it, on Thursday we'll be a better team.”
Rodriguez also revealed that the club’s backroom and coaching staff is close to being finalized and should be confirmed at some point next week ahead of the start of preseason training on Jan. 25.
The Fire’s roster remains threadbare with just 14 players currently signed up for 2016, and with another potential 14 spots to be filled before their opening day clash with New York City FC at Toyota Park on Sunday March 6, the next few weeks should see plenty of movement.
- Find more Chicago news at Chicago-Fire.com
Rodriguez repeated the Fire's priority to bring in quality defensive reinforcements, and he put to bed any concerns fans may have had about the club’s relative inactivity by revealing that two MLS free agents are as good as signed and that deals for two European center backs are almost done.
“Our priority this offseason has always been, and remains to some degree, the center back position,” Rodriguez said. “We have agreed to terms with a European center back. That contract is not yet signed, but we have no reason to believe that there will be any hang-ups.
“We have a standing offer out to a second European center back. In that instance, we are competing with some [UEFA] Champions League teams for him. We're hopeful.”