The Fire will need Kennedy Igboananike to provide speed and goals to a team looking to become faster and more dynamic. If he doesn’t, he’ll continue their recent trend of Designated Players flopping.
Igboananike and left back Joevin Jones, signed Wednesday, signal the first additions during what promises to be a busy offseason for the Fire. While Jones could replace Gonzalo Segares on the back line, more eyes will be on Igboananike.
Not only will he need to help the Fire score more than in 2014, but he’ll have to help them reverse a trend of DPs struggling to make an impact for the team. And already, some skeptical Fire fans are expecting Igboananike to do just that.
“I think you’ve got to allow the player to play first, and then make a decision on that,” Fire coach Frank Yallop said during a teleconference. “I feel he’s set up to do well in this league. Defenses aren’t on top in this league – it’s about goal scoring and I think free play. He excels in that type of environment.”
That would be a good thing for the Fire, who swung and missed this summer on acquiring midfielder Jermaine Jones. Jones would have been a major upgrade for the Fire, and has helped the New England Revolution reach this weekend’s MLS Cup.
When asked about pursuing recognizable DPs, Yallop didn’t mention Jones by name but seemed to allude to that drawn-out saga and the risks that come along with chasing well-known and popular players.
“It’s a difficult one because not all of those players are available and I think that, again, I don’t want to be waiting around to try to get a name player to come in and we miss out on some players that can help us on the field,” Yallop said. “In the end it’s about what he does on the field.”
What Igboananike does is run fast. Though he tried to brush it off, Igboananike confirmed the stories about him and his speed. At 25 and still maybe looking for bigger stages, Yallop is confident Igboananike didn’t come to the Fire for a paycheck.
Though aware that it would help the Fire on and off the field to get a recognizable DP, Yallop is more concerned about finding the best players for his up-tempo plans and ones who could help them get more athletic in 2015.
“What I don’t want to do is get caught up in trying to sign a name and he’s past his sell-by date and doesn’t get it done on the field. Then we’re in trouble,” Yallop said. “Yes, I’ve got an eye on that. I’m trying my best to get players that the fans can relate to and enjoy. I think the big thing for me is making sure that once those players are playing on the field that our fan base are really going to enjoy watching us play, and we enjoy the players that we bring in.”
NOTES: Yallop didn’t completely rule out Segares’ return. He declined comment on target Scottish midfielder Shaun Maloney and also Norwegian striker Marcus Pedersen, also rumored to be a player the Fire are pursuing.