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Fire hoping Gilberto boosts underachieving strikers

When Gilberto arrives sometime next week after his immigration work is completed he’ll be walking into a situation where he’ll automatically be compared to Didier Drogba. Maybe that’s not fair to Gilberto but he was acquired with allocation money the Fire got for Drogba’s rights, meaning he’ll be linked to the now-Montreal Impact forward for a long time.

He’ll also be looked at to stabilize a unit of Fire strikers that have underwhelmed.

“Adding Gilberto adds another dimension to our strike force, which again we’ve missed some chances that have gone along the way that could have won games for us,” Fire coach Frank Yallop said. “We’re trying to correct that.”

When the Fire were built this offseason they didn’t think scoring from their strikers would be an issue. Kennedy Igboananike arrived as a Designated Player, Quincy Amarikwa was coming back after a career year, Guly do Prado came in as depth and the team was hoping Mike Magee’s return would add to what they thought would be an improved attack.

Unfortunately for the last-place Fire (5-11-4, 19 points), things haven’t worked out that way.

Entering Sunday’s game against F.C. Dallas (11-5-5, 38 points), the Fire’s 22 goals are the fewest in the Eastern Conference. Magee is expected to be out again with a right knee problem, Amarikwa underwhelmed and was dealt to San Jose, do Prado barely merits any mention and Jason Johnson’s shown glimpses since coming from Houston but lacks experience.

Igboananike – who’s earning over $900,000 in guaranteed compensation according to the MLS Players Union – has only two league goals and had his contract bought down to make room for Gilberto.

“If it doesn’t work out, then things change,” Yallop said when he was asked about Igboananike’s future with the club. “He’s scored four goals already, two in the (U.S. Open) Cup and two in the league, Igbo, so hopefully he catches fire.”

As Yallop alluded to, if Igboananike does get hot there should be room for him. Yallop will play two strikers if he has to, and that means there could still be playing time for the now-former DP.

“I just want to make sure that we understand what we’re doing and how we go about things,” Yallop said. “Again, it’s up to the players themselves to grab the chance and take it and make that spot their own.”

Igboananike, who said he found out he was being bought down when he saw it on a website, hasn’t done that. He’s also lived through the Drogba saga and now the acquisition of Gilberto, both of which could be seen as tacit criticisms of his play.

“I’m just keeping my head up and working hard,” Igboananike said. “I think that’s all I can do for now.”