CHICAGO — Every year Nelson Rodriguez has been in charge of the Chicago Fire, he’s made a trade in the first round on draft day.
And Friday, when the Fire played host for the 2019 MLS SuperDraft, Rodriguez made it four straight years. The Fire traded down once, then traded away two picks to finish the day without drafting a player but with a bundle of cash.
“We feel we’ve come out of here with an important amount of money that helps us with some of the other roster moves we look to fulfill,” Rodriguez, general manager of the Fire, said. “We also got a player who we believe who is ready to contribute to the first team. Maybe not as a starter, but as an important piece.”
That player is yet to be named, and the Fire acquired his rights from the New York Red Bulls in exchange for the 32nd overall pick in the draft. Rodriguez later explained the Red Bulls needed to contact the player first before announcing who it is.
Before that, the Fire traded the No. 5 pick to Colorado for the No. 15 pick and $100,000 of general allocation money. Colorado grabbed Denver forward Andre Shinyashiki with the pick. The Fire later flipped the 15th pick to Minnesota for $50,000 more in GAM.
Rodriguez said the Fire fielded multiple offers for the No. 5 pick and made an attempt to move up in the draft earlier in the week. On each of the following two trades, teams approached the Fire to initiate trade talks.
Rodriguez also confirmed homegrown prospect Andrew Gutman signed a contract with Scottish giant Celtic. Gutman won the Hermann Trophy for college soccer’s best player this year, but chose Celtic over the Fire’s offer.
Negotiations are ongoing with defender Johan Kappelhof. Rodriguez said the Fire rejected a trade offer earlier in the week for the out-of-contract Dutchman. He also said the team is negotiating with a goalkeeper, a centerback and three attacking players.
“There could be a flurry of activity and that could be positive or negative,” Rodriguez said. “There could be a flurry of nos or a flurry of yeses. I don’t know the timing, and I hesitate to say we’re close because I have learned through my years, until it’s signed, it’s not done. We’re engaged with five or six players and club from around the world.”
Fire academy prospect goes to Portland
One other interesting draft note for the Fire involved Portland first-round pick Ryan Sierakowski. The Michigan State forward is from suburban McHenry, Ill., and played for the Fire’s academy. He was eligible to be signed as a homegrown, but the Fire didn’t make him an offer.
Sierakowski instead went No. 23 overall to Portland.
“When I left (the Fire academy to go to Michigan State), they fired their whole staff,” Sierakowski said. “So they got a completely new staff in and I don’t know if the new guys knew me, but (Senior Director of Soccer Operations) Eddie Rock called me a month ago and told me they weren’t going to take me homegrown. So, I’m here now.”
When asked, Rodriguez didn’t elaborate on why the Fire didn’t make Sierakowski an offer.
“We’re happy that Ryan got drafted,” Rodriguez said. “I think that’s fantastic. I think he landed in a great spot so we wish him all the best.”
Sierakowski helped Michigan State to the College Cup semifinals, but had to wait for a combine invite. It came a week after the tournament run ended. He admitted to some confusion over how the process would work after the Fire didn’t make him an offer.
But Portland’s youth technical director is Larry Sunderland, who was in charge of the Fire academy when Sierakowski was playing there and was part of the staff turnover Sierakowski referred to when he left for college.
“I know that the right team would get me and I just trusted to God that whoever wanted me and whoever appreciated me would end up getting me,” Sierakowski said.
He also was drafted in his hometown with a bunch of family in attendance.
“To be able to do it here is special,” Sierakowski said. “I had a lot of family members come out, so it was awesome to see that.”