By Amanda Beemer
Now that SCIC, the International Friendly, the U.S. Open Cup, SuperLiga, and all the disappointments contained therein are all finally behind them, the Fire can resume focus on the MLS regular season for the rest of its duration. Part of that preparation is welcoming their newest Designated Player, Nery Castillo, who will be arriving in Chicago later on this week. The 26 year-old Mexican international is joining the Fire a decade into his career, after having played for Greek club Olympiakos FC, a couple of Ukrainian clubs, Manchester City, and the Mexican National team.
Castillo’s upcoming role on the Fire’s side is clear; to be the playmaker. He is known as a creative striker who creates his own opportunities, and Fire Head Coach Carlos de los Cobos is looking to put him up front alongside McBride or Collins John (neither of whom have had a particularly enthralling performance so far this season). In this sense, he seems a perfect fit; Chicago is a side without a playmaker – a fact that has been made painfully obvious throughout the season, especially by midfielders who can’t find the back of the net or the strikers who can. Although it is tempting to already begin outlining the hero-Castillo story of the man who single-handedly turned the club around mid-season, it is more likely his presence will have a sort of domino effect which causes the other men on the pitch to fall into their respective niches and stick to them. Hopefully Castillo’s creativity can merge with the Fire’s steadfastness in order to create scoring opportunities up front and consistency in back.
Although Castillo will be a stranger to Chicago and his teammates, to his coach he is a familiar face which brings back old memories. Carlos de los Cobos played against Castillo’s father on numerous occasions three decades ago while playing for Club America; the two were friends and de los Cobos even knew Nery when he was a kid. Close ties such as this resonate well with the Fire’s notion of being a family club, and reunions such as this seem to be this season’s trend (John and McBride played together for Fulham FC, and John was excited to join his former mate in Chicago).
The mid-season addition of a Mexican playmaker to a lagging Chicago team is a story that has been told before; hopefully this time around the ending will be even better.
Amanda is a long-time Chicago resident and avid Chicago Fire fan, and has been following MLS for the better part of a decade. Although she makes an awesome spectator, she is a god-awful player. She can be reached at email@example.com