BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Though the 2014 season ending with last Friday’s 2-1 win over the Houston Dynamo, the first team is wrapping up the campaign this week with end-of-season training sessions, fitness testing and player interviews before breaking for the offseason.
With the team not happy with its record in 2014, it’ll no doubt be a busy offseason full of Drafts: Dispersal, Expansion and Re-Entry as well as offseason scouting for Fire head coach Frank Yallop.
As he and his staff prepare for those mechanisms, the last bit of business he’ll do with the 2014 team is player meetings which will take place Thursday and Friday at Toyota Park.
“The players [will] know where they stand with us as a club, either picking the option up or not,” Yallop told reporters on Wednesday. “Whatever it takes, we’ll have the answers after Friday. There’s a lot of sorting out but it’s an exciting time for us to look forward to next season. That’s the big thing.”
Following player meetings, Yallop said he’ll be heading to Europe for a 10-day scouting trip to continue the work that Fire Technical Director Brian Bliss and Chief Scout Trevor James have done during the season.
On Saturday’s episode of Chicago Fire Weekly on ESPN 1000, Yallop indicated that he would be heading to Sweden to check out a player he had been tracking for a while. After his trek to Scandinavia, he’ll check out a few other targets in the UK. He also made mention of another trip to South America for he or a member of his staff.
Yallop made clear Wednesday that the club’s offseason scouting will be about finding impact players to better supplement the existing base of talent.
“We need some help in the first 11 I think. I was pleased with the overall efforts of the whole team [this season] but I just think our quality and talent wasn’t quite enough in the areas that were important. I’ve said since the window we’re looking to spend some money and get some players in. It’s up to me and the staff to get out there and really get some serious thoughts and talks with players and agents and clubs.
“I expect some changes in certain areas that are going to help us. I’m not going to say where, you guys can guess that,” he joked.
More Room in the Salary Budget
Now just two days away from his one year anniversary with the Fire, Yallop heads into the offseason with more salary space than what he inherited when he took over last October when he had more guaranteed contracts on the Fire books.
“[The salary cap] is always tight because you want to keep your best players and they’re the ones that get paid the most,” he said. “It’s always an issue but we’ve got some room to make some moves and I think that’s important. We can’t clean everyone out and have a brand new team. You can’t do that and I don’t want to do that."
"I think some guys came up with some credit this season. We want to keep those positive guys and make sure we’re building and trying to get stronger with every move we make."
It's safe to say one of the players Yallop is takling about is veteran defender Lovel Palmer, who came to terms with the club on a new deal Wednesday.
It still seems clear that moves are set to happen in the offseason.
"There’ll be some changes, it’s an ongoing thing. We have room and scope to change some things. That’s important for me.”
With New York City FC and Orlando City SC setting their eyes on the December 10 Expansion Draft, Yallop indicated he’s pretty close to knowing what his list of 11 protected players will be with “maybe one or two players” still to be decided on.
“Most of them I’ve got a really good idea of who they are and who’s definitely going to have a good chance to stay without getting exposed,” he said. “It’s a numbers game too. I’ve been in this situation before, you’re not sure what the other teams are looking for so it’s tough, but we can only lose two players so we’ve got to work with that.”