BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Sometimes a business deal takes a few years to develop and get done.
That certainly seems the case in the Chicago Fire’s signing of Designated Player Kennedy Igboananike this week.
The Nigerian forward, who also holds Swedish citizenship, has been tracked by Fire head coach Frank Yallop for three years during his time playing in Scandinavia.
The Fire head coach even had the benefit of managing against his new signing while leading the San Jose Earthquakes against AIK in a preseason friendly in early 2013.
“[I saw him] when he was with Djurgårdens and in his move to AIK,” Yallop said. I liked what I saw then, he went to a bigger club in AIK, continued scoring and last season maybe wasn’t the greatest of goal scoring for him but he played a lot of games.”
After impressing for three seasons with Djurgårdens, Igboananike earned a move to AIK at the start of 2013, tallying 14 goals in 29 appearances that season. While his tally fell of somewhat this past season, he was still pursued by English sides Southampton and Queens Park Rangers heading into January, giving Yallop a victory in earning the 25-year-old’s signature.
What Kennedy Says
Yallop made sure to welcome his signing to Chicago with open arms, meeting him upon arrival at O’Hare International Airport on Tuesday afternoon.
“He’s the reason why I’m here,” Igboananike told reporters Wednesday. “He’s a nice guy and he taught me everything about the league. I’m here to help and do everything in my power to make sure everything works out for everyone here.”
“I’m coming here to fulfill a dream, help the team win back their glories, score a lot of goals and just be happy,” he continued.
Whether you’re playing FIFA 15 or watching him on YouTube, Igboananike’s most apparent attribute is his speed, which combined with his goal scoring ability, he thinks will suit him well in the fast-paced style of Major League Soccer.
“People say I’m fast and, yeah, I’m fast. “The tempo [here] is fast as well, so they always like to give the balls to the forwards. I think that is my kind of game, get the ball and try to score some goals.”
Asked whether he might utilize his new DP’s speed out on the wing, Yallop left little doubt as to where he’d be utilizing Igboananike
“He’s a striker, Yallop said. “He doesn’t play wide, he’s been used there but his best attributes are as a striker, breaking behind defenses and using his speed and agility finishing in the middle of the field.
“Assume he’s playing the striker with us.”
“I think he’s set up to do well in this league. It’s not really defenses that are on top in this league, it’s about goal scoring and free play and he excels in that type of environment.”
With the player joining a new environment as a Designated Player and expectancy to score goals, it wouldn’t be understandable for Igboananike to feel pressure in his new role.
How does he respond?
“I don’t feel pressure. My job is to make a goal, work for the team, fight hard and play with heart. Playing with heart, with the love of the fans, everything, that will push everybody to get better in the game. My job is to help and make it as good as I can.”
More to Come
The Fire also announced the signing of Trinidad & Tobago international defender Joevin Jones on Wednesday who is expected to fill the club’s starting left back role heading into 2015 (more on Chicago-Fire.com Thursday).
But beyond that signing, Yallop said he and his staff are still looking to fill the club’s other two open Designated Player spots saying, “We’re ready to move in those two areas and round out the squad.”
Yallop indicated the club was working on deals, “as we speak” in the forward area but also to fill out a number of empty spots that cover most areas on the field.
“We need to be able to outscore opponents in our league and I think getting goals from all over the field is important too. In our attacking areas we want to add to that and add assists and goals to our wide players, our central midfield and our forwards. They’re the spots we’re looking at -- we’ve let two center backs go so we’re looking at that spot also.”
The ability to fill those spots could come from future international signings or through the upcoming Re-Entry process which begins on December 10. According to the Fire manager, certain places will take priority.
“There are spots right now I want to get filled before waiting to go into Re-Entry. There’ll be good players sitting in the Re-Entry I’m sure, but it just depends what figure they’re at and all those things and how it comes about getting them.
“There’s 19 other clubs that are trying to get players that are obviously good players and a little higher in salary. I’d love to get some signings done before the Christmas break or early January. I want to hit the ground running with a squad I feel is going to compete next season and I just want to get some signings done as quick as we can.”