The Chicago Fire and USL-side St. Louis FC have ended their relationship. Chicago has ..." /> The Fire Has A USL Problem - Fire On Ice Soccer


Published on February 21st, 2017 | by Ryan Voyles


The Fire Has A USL Problem

The Chicago Fire and USL-side St. Louis FC have ended their relationship. Chicago has now moved on to what they must hope is greener pastures in Tulsa because the St. Louis experiment did not go very well.

The Chicago-St. Louis  break-up was not an ugly one where the couple screams and fights in public at a nice restaurant. Instead, the break-up seemed more like partners who have become so indifferent to one another’s existence that the only reason they stayed together so long was because the lease on their shared apartment didn’t run out until early this year.

As part of the release, the clubs highlighted the nine players that the Fire sent down I-55 to play in St. Louis over the past two years. A quick glance at those players is a who’s who of ‘who?’

Kingsley Brice: No appearances on main club, waived last offseason.

Greg Cochrane: Semi-regular starter for tie-loving 2014 Fire squad, made only four appearances with main club in 2015 and is now with USL-side San Antonio FC.

Drew Conner: 12 starts for STLFC in 2016, no appearances with main club. Currently with Fire in camp (and making awesome plays in exhibition games.)

Patrick Doody: Showed well in seven appearances with Fire in 2015, but spent all of 2016 in St. Louis. Currently with Fire in camp.

Collin Fernandez: Improbably the longest-tenured member of the Fire, Made a total of 3 combined appearances for main club in past two years, only played seven combined games in past two years with Louisville City FC and STLFC. Currently with Fire in camp.

Alex Kann: Made one appearance with Fire in 2015, now plays for Atlanta United FC

Mike MaGee: Magic Mike had one appearance in STL while recovering from injury.

Patrick McLain: Made one appearance with Fire and STLFC in 2016. Now plays for Orlando City.

Alex Morrell: Four appearances for Fire in 2016, now with USL-side Tampa Bay Rowdies.

Only three of those players remain in the Fire organization, and none of them have a real clear future with the organization. Doody showed well during his time in STLFC, but he’ll turn 25 in April and has not played minutes in MLS in nearly 18 months. It is hard to tell whether his good showing this preseason will be enough for Paunovic to give him time come regular season.

Both Fernandez and Conner spent large parts of last season on the Fire bench last season and only Fernandez got some mop-up minutes.

Since the partnership with STLFC was announced in 2015, the only young players who have really made much impact have been Brandon Vincent, Jonathan Campbell, Matt Polster and the dearly departed Harry Shipp (Joey Calistri is the next tier down in that ‘at least he played some minutes with the Fire’). What all of them have in common is not one spent a single minute down with St. Louis, a combination of homegrown players and high draft picks. Outside Shipp, the Fire have struggled to develop a homegrown player into a regular contributor to the club.

While other teams have made the investments in their youth development program and into their own ‘minor league’ teams in the United Soccer League, the Fire have remained content to make small partnerships with lower-tier teams.

The new USL partnership with the Tulsa Roughnecks is fitting, as both clubs won their league’s respective wooden spoons. Tulsa was especially horrific last season, finishing with a 5-21-4 record and 15 points behind the second-worst team in the Western Conference – who just happened to be STLFC.

Fans can go on social media and rant and rave about what the Fire is doing in their youth development (and trust me, they already have), but little is expected to change in the immediate future. Rumors of a potential affiliate in Milwaukee have crept up here and there, but general manager Nelson Rodriguez has publicly shown little interest in moving toward owning and operating their own affiliation.

Fire fans could go on YouTube to find their youngest and brightest talents light it up in the Oil Capital. But if the past two years have shown us anything, it’s that such a venture would likely be a waste of time.

It is time for the Fire to find a way to bridge their rather successful youth academy to the main club.

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2 Responses to The Fire Has A USL Problem

  1. Ahan Jain says:

    Connor actually played really well in St. Louis. Morel was trash.

  2. Ahan Jain says:

    basically the Loanees weren’t as prolific for STLFC this year as last year for various reasons. Last year Pat Doody and Alec Kann played many minutes for the club in 2015.
    This year it wasn’t as fluid. More players came and went, injuries and recalls mainly.

    Doody came to the club again, I think he was a bit reluctant to also. He played 7 games for Fire in 2015 and saw himself as an established squad player. That said He really is a consummate American left back. He is an excellent defender and has a phenomenal left foot. Injuries were a bain of his 2016 and we didn’t see much of him. He did score a long range free kick against OKC Energy. I would love him on our team permanently.

    Drew Conner. He really surprised me. When you get a new loanee in the team, you’re a bit reluctant to give them a chance as they’re taking the spot of a club favorite. Drew played his first game for STLFC against OC Blues, it was our third game of season and our first win, a must win. He ran the show and really showed what he is about. He was virtually an ever present through our first half of the season, usually with standout displays. His good form obviously caught the eye as he was recalled to Fire squad and we sorely missed him in the second half of the season.

    Eric Gherig and Pat McClain. only played a single game yet pivotal in winning teams. Patrick was a brick wall as we went to his ex team Sacramento and we defended for our lives yet snagged all 3 points.

    Alex Morrell and Colin Fernandez. I felt a little sorry for these guys, they were thrown in the deep end when our season was unraveling around us. Difficult to really shine when the wheels are coming off.

    Credit- Matthew Bird

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