By Mike Fotopoulos (@irishoutsider)
Yesterday, the Fire traded Alex to Houston for Jason Johnson. These are the kinds of trades that make my inner MLS capgeek smile. Chicago trades a perfectly average midfielder on a perfectly average contract for a pocket full of cap room and a free player to boot. They needed cap relief and fewer midfielders, and this move gets the job done.
Alex is definitely out of the picture in the Fire midfield with Matt Polster, Michael Stephens, Victor Perez, and likely Chris Ritter and Razvan Cocis ahead of him on the depth chart. Getting Houston to throw Jason Johnson and his Generation Adidas contract is basically free money. Johnson’s contract is basically a free option to see if he pans out, so it would seem that the Fire are coming out ahead on the trade.
The question for Houston is their own need for midfield depth. Given the Dynamo’s current pairing of Nathan Sturgis and Luis Garrido, Alex seems to be bringing exactly that. He has struggled for playing time recently in Chicago, so it is hard to say whether he would be a clear starter over either. More likely, it is straight purchase of a serviceable midfielder, which is exactly what the Fire put up on offer. They found themselves with depth to sell and were able to find someone to pay them off.
Interestingly enough, bringing in yet another forward player places Chicago back in a position where they can find themselves with more attacking depth. Mike Magee and Patrick Nyarko are still recovering from injury, but it is possible to see the Fire start the summer with an extra player up top. If Johnson can find a role on the current roster, they could see themselves ready to deal again, potentially making another deal along these lines.
MLS cap space is a precious commodity, and as Chicago continues to repair its roster, optimizing every dollar spent is the key. Trades like this get some dead money off of the bench and also give a free look at a young player, so clubs should take advantage of these situations whenever they arise.