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After being ‘open for business,’ Fire make smaller moves during transfer window

The Fire added Jonathan Bornstein and Micheal Azira, but the roster is largely the same after Wednesday’s deadline.

Nelson Rodriguez speaks during a media availability last month.
Chicago Fire Soccer Club

When he met with the media on July 17, Fire president and general manager Nelson Rodriguez was clearly unsatisfied by the team’s progress. The Fire were coming off a home loss to last-place FC Cincinnati, and were hours away from a 2-2 draw at SeatGeek Stadium with lowly Columbus.

Rodriguez revealed that night that following their U.S. Open Cup loss to Saint Louis FC, he told players and staff he needed to see changes within five games. The Fire responded by going 1-3-1, and with the summer transfer window open, Rodriguez sent a message to the rest of Major League Soccer.

“While the effort and intention was there, the results weren’t,” Rodriguez said that night. “Our team, and the entire league, knows that we’re open for business.”

The Fire did some business before the window closed Wednesday, but the changes weren’t exactly wholesale. If anything, the development that raised the most eyebrows was the team reportedly considering hiring former University of Louisville coach Ken Lolla as their chief culture officer.

Perhaps the most notable on-field transaction was the addition of former United States national team defender Jonathan Bornstein. The Fire made a last-minute move Wednesday afternoon by trading defender Jorge Corrales to Montreal for veteran midfielder Micheal Azira. And before Rodriguez spoke on July 17, the team sent midfielder Mo Adams to Atlanta for $100,000 in 2020 General Allocation Money.

Reportedly, the Fire also pursued former Atletico Madrid right back Juanfran, but the 34-year-old signed with Sao Paulo in Brazil.

While Bornstein has been exactly what the Fire needed at left back and Azira will add more experience to the midfield, the moves didn’t shake the team. Corrales’ struggles were a storyline early in the season, and Adams showed some promise, but didn’t have a great fit on the roster.

How that roster will look going forward is another question, and things didn’t get much clearer during the window.

All three Designated Players (Bastian Schweinsteiger Aleksandar Katai, Nemanja Nikolic) are out of contract after the season. Nicolas Gaitan will be a Designated Player if he returns, and captain Dax McCarty has a team option for 2020. A look at the standings entering Saturday’s game against Montreal showed the Fire will need to make more changes yet again this offseason, regardless of what happens with the biggest names.

There’s also the question of the impending move to Soldier Field and how that would impact team-building and recruiting. If the expected move happens, it wouldn’t be shocking if the Fire try to make splashy signings in an attempt to grab headlines and sell some tickets.

But as the recent window shows, being “open for business” doesn’t always mean major moves.