I don’t know what to specifically call pieces here where I talk about the Fire. Especially since this is a “personal blog” and not a “Fire-centric” or “soccer-centric” blog. But I felt like it was important to write out my opinion on what just happened and how I think this all happened. So we’re gonna shoot first and ask questions later about the format, I really feel like this needs to be discussed.
So first, Paul Tenorio, while discussing Cyle Larin stuff also mentioned that the Chicago Fire was trading the homegrown rights for star North Carolina midfielder Cam Lindley to Orlando. Later multiple insiders mentioned Cam Lindley having rejected a contract with the Fire.
As I just reported on my Periscope: Sources tell me Chicago Fire have agreed in principle to a trade sending HG rights for Cam Lindley to Orlando City in exchange for Rafa Ramos and allocation money. #MLS #OCSC #cf97
— Paul Tenorio (@PaulTenorio) January 13, 2018
So if you’re reading this, it means that you care about this topic. If you care, that means you’ve seen this whole thing on Twitter. If not, go check out Dan Santaromita’s write-up on NBC Chicago. You can find as many facts as you need there. What I’m about to do isn’t a report, it’s more of an opinionated analysis piece. So that’s the facts, here’s my thoughts.
This is what happens when you fuck with your academy (forgot to mention, apologies to anyone who’s not a fan of vulgar language).
In high school, I knew a ton of kids who actually had friends in the academy. Hell, there was an academy player in my math class. This was around the time where I was just starting out with writing about the Fire and looking at the team objectively, so I was always asking questions about the feel with the academy, about the players there, about who were the best, who would sign for the Fire. And right in the middle of that time, massive changes hit the academy as Larry Sunderland left for Portland, multiple academy coaches left including Fire legend Gonzalo Segares, and the guy who was holding it all up since the beginning, John Dorn, decided to leave.
I’ve gotten mixed reports on what the players thought of Larry Sunderland. One guy said everyone hated him, other guys said everyone loved him. What can’t be denied is that he built and led some of the best academy teams in the country. The Fire may not have been doing all the things that FC Dallas and Atlanta United are doing, but somehow with someone like Sunderland at the helm, the team won. But I don’t think he had much to do with Lindley’s decision.
When it comes to Sega, he was only a part of the academy for a short time between retiring from his playing career and moving on to FC United (a club academy team). But although that time was short, he really set himself into the culture. And not just the culture of the way these players played, but at every available opportunity he tried to instill in the U-18s what it meant to wear the Chicago badge.
While he didn’t set it up, there was a game in April against the Crew Wolves a couple years ago where a few days before the game, he showed the kids videos of CJ Brown, telling them about his passion for the club and what it meant for him, and Sega himself, to put on a Fire jersey and wear that badge bin front of Section 8. After hearing about this, some leaders in Section 8 decided to show up and attempt to give it at least a little bit of a feel as to what it’s like to have Chicago behind them. Starring in that game for the academy: players like Djordje Mihailovic, Mauricio Pineda, and Cam Lindley.
Then, the coaching license incident happened and Sega was gone.
So to bring this back around to Lindley, he was a product of a wonderful academy, that was taken down in such an unnecessary way. When I talked to one of the players while this was happening, he told me that most players were planning on just going to college. No one was really interested in signing with the Fire. I thought this was about getting an education, but you can very well see how these kids could feel betrayed by such stupid actions from the Fire’s head office.
Where does that leave us here? Should Fire fans feel betrayed? I guess maybe if you want to, but I don’t blame Lindley. I think that it’s entirely okay to not want to sign with a team that threw away a man who loved it so much. And one thing I realized when looking at where he was being traded. When it comes to the Fire, we’ve produced a ton of players turned coaches, especially the way older players. And there’s one man who embodied a love of the Fire so much, but couldn’t stay around here: Orlando City assistant coach, CJ Brown.
I might be reading too far into this, but this is something to think about with all of what happened. This didn’t just come out of nowhere. How can you expect young players to “be loyal” to a club that can’t even be loyal to those who love it? Good luck with your career, Cam. Please fake an injury before each game against the Fire.
Edit: This deal was made official on January 18th.