After nine games this season, the Chicago Fire sit in eighth place in the Eastern Conference with a paltry seven points from nine games. The question asked by MLS analysts and Fire fans before the season is now firmly in the spotlight, namely where are the goals going to come from? The Men in Red have scored a league low six goals so far this season with DP striker Sherjill MacDonald yet to break his duck for the campaign. The talk among journalists is that the Fire are waiting till the summer transfer to make a move for a DP. With that in mind, I’m examining six strikers who could come in and immediately help the team. Criteria:
I decided to go look at strikers mainly based in Europe due to the Fire’s lack of success with strikers signed from South America in recent seasons. I also chose players with a consistent goal scoring record, not players who scored countless goals five years ago and have done little since then. Finally, I tried to limit my choices to players who will be out of contract this summer, a more attractive and affordable option. All of the strikers have played for a number of seasons in some of Europe’s top divisions and all are current or former internationals.
#1 Javier Saviola – Age: 31 – Nationality: Argentina – Current club: Malaga (Spain)
Javier Saviola is a player is probably the most notable name on the list. He has played with some of the biggest teams in the world including Barcelona, Real Madrid, River Plate and Benfica. He has played 40 times for Argentina scoring 11 goals. He has represented the Albiceleste at a World Cup and an Olympic games. Being 31, Saviola still has many years left at the top level and would certainly be one of the highest profile DP signings in MLS history if he landed in the States. Saviola, who is out of contract this summer, has scored 8 goals for Malaga this season, including 1 in the Champions League. Last season he scored 4 goals for Benfica and in the 2010/11 season he scored 10 for the Portuguese club. Saviola is a pure finisher, something the Fire has lacked since the days of Ante Razov. His creativity around the box is second to none and his goal scoring record of 193 goals in 515 games speaks for itself For some highlights of Saviola’s goals, click here.
#2 Dmitry Bulykin– Age: 33 – Nationality: Russia – Current club: FC Twente (Holland)
Bulykin is another experienced striker more in the target man mold. According to reports in Holland, his contract at Twente will not be renewed and he will be available on a free transfer this summer. The Russian has 5 goals this season for Twente in 19 total appearances. Last season he played with Ajax, scoring 9 goals in 20 appearances. Two seasons ago Bulykin scored 21 goals in 30 games for Den Haag, paving the way for his move to Ajax. He has also represented Russia 15 times, including at Euro 2004. He has a very good first touch for a striker of his size (6’4”) and links well with his strike partners. To see Bulykin in action click here. Here is a highlight video of his goals at Den Haag.
#3 Carlton Cole – Age: 29 – Nationality: England – Current Club: West Ham United (England)
Carlton Cole is another big striker who is also good with the ball at his feet and is very mobile. This season at West Ham he only has two goals but in the previous season he scored 15 goals in the Championship to help West Ham get promoted. In the 2010/2011 season, Cole scored 11 goals. He has represented England on 7 occasions. Cole’s contract with West Ham is up at the end of this season and it is strongly rumored that his contract will not be renewed. Cole can be an extremely frustrating player, often making elementary mistakes, but he certainly has the raw talent to be very successful in MLS. Like Bulykin, his size would suit the physicality of the league. Here is a highlight video of Cole’s goals from a few seasons back.
#4 Mladen Petric – Age: 32 – Nationality: Croatia – Current club: Fulham (England)
Petric is a player I’ve admired for a number of years. He came to Fulham on a free transfer from Hamburg and has scored 5 goals in the EPL this season for the London club. For Hamburg he scored 8 goals last season and 13 the year before. He has played over 40 times for Croatia including at Euro 2008. He is perhaps most famous for scoring the goal the denied England a place in that tournament. His one year deal at Fulham looks set not be renewed, meaning he will be a free agent this summer. Similar to Saviola, Petric is a pure finisher with the eye for the spectacular goal. He has the ability to create a goal out of nothing, something the Fire has lacked this season. The left-footer is also a danger from free kicks. For highlights of some of his goals at Hamburg, click here.
#5 Kevin Doyle – Age: 29 – Nationality: Ireland – Current club: Wolves (England)
Doyle and Wolves recently suffered a second relegation in a row and it looks unlikely that he will be playing in League 1 next season. Though technically still under contract with Wolves for two more seasons, Doyle should have an escape clause, especially considering Wolves’ relegation. Like Carlton Cole, Doyle is not a prolific goal scorer but a move to the Fire would certainly benefit the team. Doyle scored 9 goals for Wolves this season, 5 goals the season before and 8 in the 2010/11 season. He has played over 50 times for Ireland, representing his country at last summer’s Euro 2012 tournament. Robbie Keane and Darren O’Dea’s moves to MLS have not hurt their chances of making the Ireland team and a change of scenery might get Doyle back into the Ireland frame. Doyle is very good in the air and is comfortable playing as a lone striker or with a partner. Here is a highlight video of Doyle’s goals for Reading and Wolves.
#6 Fabrizio Miccoli – Age: 33 – Nationality: Italy – Current club: Palermo (Italy)
Miccoli is a striker that is getting up there in age but is still consistently scoring in the Italian league. His goals were not enough to keep Palermo up this season and it is unlikely that he will drop down to Serie B with the club. His contract is up this summer so he is available on a free transfer. Though he only scored 7 goals this season, he scored 16 last season and 9 the year before that, all for Palermo. Miccoli has also represented Italy on 10 occasions. In total he has scored over 100 goals in Serie A for massive clubs like Juventus and Fiorentina. He, like Saviola, is very small in size but his movement and finishing ability make him an excellent striker. There has been a trend of older Italian players coming to MLS over the past few seasons (most notably to Montreal) but if the Fire could pluck him from Italy, Miccoli would surely solve the Fire’s goal scoring crisis. To see 100 of Miccoli’s Serie A goals, click here.