Kennedy Igboananike might be a good start for the Fire. He’s reportedly one of the fastest players in world soccer, and he could give their stagnant attack a much-needed boost.
But that’s if he’s just a start.
On Tuesday, the Fire announced they have signed the 5-foot-9 Nigerian forward to a Designated Player contract. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed for Igboananike, but it’s a multi-year deal for the 25-year-old who scored 22 times over the last two seasons with Swedish club AIK.
“Kennedy is a dynamic goal scorer with a track record of producing,” Fire coach Frank Yallop said in a statement. “He’s young and exciting, a player with incredible pace, and we look forward to adding him to our roster to bolster our attack.”
The Fire’s attack definitely needs bolstering. It scored 41 goals this season and struggled to produce consistent pressure, and will likely start next season without Mike Magee and Patrick Nyarko after both underwent surgeries.
Igboananike could help, though the Fire need more to contend in an Eastern Conference that will add New York City FC and Orlando City SC next season. With Igboananike’s signing and including Juan Luis Anangono, the Fire have only 15 players on the roster. But considering the Fire’s 6-10-18 record, they’ll need to do more than fill out the roster but acquire impact players, something Yallop spoke of repeatedly near the end of this season.
Yallop and the Fire are also interested in Scottish midfielder Shaun Maloney, currently playing for Wigan in England’s second division. Maloney would also be a DP but he’s been linked to Everton of the English Premier League, which is managed by Maloney’s former boss Roberto Martinez.
Igboananike was reportedly being chased by EPL teams Queens Park Rangers and Southampton but the Fire were able to acquire him, giving them at least one DP for the 2015 season. Anangono is still on the roster, but was loaned out this summer and his future with the Fire is unclear.
The Fire also announced Tuesday they have entered into a multi-year partnership with The PrivateBank. The deal includes the naming rights for the Fire’s new North Side soccer complex – now called The PrivateBank Fire Pitch – and the institution becoming the club’s new official bank.
That agreement does not include a jersey sponsorship deal. Quaker Oats’ pact with the Fire expires prior to next season.