With the Chicago Fire’s home opener just four days away, they have found their new young striker. Georgios Koutsias, born in 2004, was announced today as a new Fire player, and he joins the club on a four-year deal following a $2.5 million transfer. The Fire have been searching for a Jhon Durán replacement all offseason to fill the vacant U22 Initiative slot on the roster, and Koutsias appears to be that man.
The recently-turned 19-year-old began his career at the established Greek powerhouse PAOK in Thessaloniki. After making three appearances for PAOK, he was loaned to fellow first-division club Volos for this season. He won the starting job just this past January and has three goals and one assist this season. Koutsias is a deadly finisher and makes very good runs to find himself in favorable positions in the penalty box. A U21 Greece international, Koutsias is regarded in his homeland as one of the foremost rising Hellenic talents, and this move to the United States will provide the next step in his young career.
Koutsias enters an open competition for the starting center forward position. With the departure of the aforementioned Durán at the beginning of the offseason, the Fire’s striking options are somewhat limited. There is Kacper Przybyłko, who has been a huge disappointment since arriving from Philadelphia Union last offseason. There are two homegrowns, Victor Bezerra and Missael Rodríguez, both of whom have talent and were given opportunities in preseason, but neither is ready for consistent MLS minutes. The Fire also acquired MLS legend Kei Kamara, but at 38, his role is expected to be somewhat limited. Unlike Przybyłko and Kamara, Koutsias offers long-term potential and could be someone who makes the jump back to Europe at some point.
It remains to be seen where he will fit into that striker hierarchy right away, but with a large transfer fee, one would imagine that he will get opportunities. Last season, Durán was in a similar position and was not given any consequential minutes early in the season, but by the summer, he had won the starting job and never looked back. It might take some time for Koutsias to acclimate to the U.S. and MLS, but if his reviews back home are anything to go by, it’s only a matter of time before he’s scoring regularly for the Men in Red.
This also likely won’t be the last center forward signing of the season. The Fire are still looking for a DP forward, but they are being cautious to ensure they find the right player. Koutsias will likely be an understudy once that #9 arrives, and it’s hard to imagine there’s much of a future for Przybyłko at that point. But for now, there’s an open competition between Koutsias, Przybyłko, and Kamara. As the youngest of the three, Ezra Hendrickson will likely be cautious with Koutsias’ minutes at the start of the season, but if he can play to the best of his ability, he will force his way into the team and hopefully live up to his sky-high potential.
Koutsias won’t be the first Greek man to represent the Fire. Club legend, assistant coach, and Ring of Fire member Frank Klopas was also born in Greece, and while matching his legacy in Chicago would be a tall order, Koutsias will be looking to follow in his footsteps and find success in the Windy City.