Let the posturing officially begin.
The LA Galaxy have engaged the Chicago Fire in discussions for the MLS rights to Robbie Rogers and the Fire are listening. But Fire president of soccer operations Javier Leon is publicly drawing a line in terms of what Chicago would accept.
“We are going to have a conversation with them about what it would take for us to consider giving up on a player that we feel strongly would be a starter on our team,” Leon told reporters on a conference call on Tuesday.
Rogers is working on a potential return to professional soccer after initially deciding to leave the sport in February when he revealed that he is gay. The former Columbus Crew midfielder has made it clear that he only wants to play in Los Angeles, where he can be close to his family.
He reiterated that desire last week during a lunch meeting with Leon and Fire owner Andrew Hauptman, after which he tweeted that Leon and Hauptman are “genuine and amazing people.”
“We had a very productive lunch with Robbie, and at the time, we felt very strongly about the fact that he is going to come back even a better player than he was before,” Leon said. “He did express his interest in staying close to his family.”
How long this saga will drag out isn't clear, but Leon said the Fire acquired the rights to Rogers with the intention of bringing him in, despite speculation that his rights would simply serve as a bargaining chip.
To acquire Rogers' rights in February, the Fire traded Dominic Oduro, who came off the bench for Chicago late last season, and received Dilly Duka in return. Duka has started four games this season despite being out with an injury for much of the season, but Leon said acquiring Rogers was the main impetus to making the deal.
Leon said the Fire exhaustively researched Rogers, and they came to the conclusion that he would likely return to MLS and could be a major piece of a championship contender.
“When we traded for Robbie's rights with Columbus, we gave up a player like Dominic Oduro and we were happy to receive a young player in Dilly, who we believe has tremendous upside potential,” Leon said. “But most importantly, at the time, the motivation was to get the rights to Robbie. We have done our homework in evaluating where he was at the time.”
Despite the fact that Rogers almost certainly won't come to Chicago, Leon is intent on receiving fair value for the former US national team player in any trade.
“When we look at the transfer fees of players that are being paid for players of similar stature, they're in the millions of dollars,” Leon said. “If the Galaxy say, 'We want him,' we expect to get similar value. We'll listen to them and see what they have to say.”
Anthony Zilis covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com.