Chicago Fire Roster Projection Updated: You be the Frank Klopas

Josip Mikulic and Yamith Cuesta in a rare shot together. The madness depicted above matches the recent changes to the Chicago Fire roster.

It has been over 40 days and 40 nights since we last did an overview of the Chicago Fire roster going into 2012. In that time Mike Banner has been let go. Yamith Cuesta, Diego Chaves, and Josip Mikulic have drifted away in circumstances that are still being sorted out. Rafael Robayo, Federico Puppo, Austin Berry, and Kheli Dube have been brought in with contracts to their name. Lucky Mkosana, Hunter Jumper, Evans Frimpong, Carl Woszczynski, Tony Walls, and Justin Chavez have been drafted. Some players have been invited and dismissed from preseason camp. If you are a little confused as to who goes where, what, why, and how, don't worry, you aren't the only one. Let's sort it all out after the break.

As is obligatory with a post like this, we must do a little MLS 101 to start things off. Those who have long passed MLS 101 with high marks may move past go, collect $200 HTIOT dollars and skip one paragraph.

In MLS there is the Senior Roster and then there's the Supplemental Roster. Senior has 20 spots. Supplemental has 10. Neither roster has to be completely full but there are minor costs involved in not filling it. The Fire typically have used the full roster spots while teams like Peter Nowak's Philadelphia Union have flirted with lighter total rosters of 23 or 24 players. At this point in the season, teams may even exceed some of the limits. The MLS roster compliance date is not until early March.

The Departed

Four senior roster spots, 3 international slots, and almost $300,000 in 2011 salary cap room. The four players below represent a significant amount of currency for a MLS team to have at their disposal. Gregg Mixdorf wrote about the problem the Fire have at center back but they also have an opportunity in the ledger. Whether or not the Fire actually wanted Josip Mikulic or Yamith Cuesta back, the absence of these four players provide good tools for potential improvement.

Roster Spot Team Player Position Base Salary Guaranteed Comp Roster Type Age
Senior CHI Banner Michael D $42,000 $42,000 Domestic 27
Senior CHI Chaves Diego F $45,000 $45,000 International 25
Senior CHI Cuesta Yamith D $72,000 $82,000 International 22
Senior CHI Mikulic Josip D $110,000 $116,250 International 25

The Arrived

Four players out. Four players in. It's easy to draw a parallel even it's not 100% fair. In an even swap of players, I don't know too many fans who wouldn't take 'The Arrived' over 'The Departed' every day and twice on Sundays. Austin Berry has the potential to be Cuesta and Mikulic in one package (young healthy player with potential that can be solidly consistent in his play). It's easy to overlook the fact that Berry, while a MLS rookie, is actually a couple of months older than Anibaba. Many scouts thought Berry would have been a first round pick last year. There's still an unknown factor and cause for concern over Kwame Watson-Siriboe being the No. 4 option at CB but I feel better than I did when I first heard the bad news last week.

Kheli Dube and Federico Puppo add some depth to the forward position. Dominic Oduro can actually be subbed out by someone other than Orr Barouch or a midfielder in 2012. It also allows Chicago Fire head coach Frank Klopas to move Patrick Nyarko into a midfield role in the 4-3-1-2 and still have two forwards on the bench. Rafael Robayo might see time in all four midfield spots. His deployment is a total game changer for the team's depth. Given the career arcs of Dube, Puppo, and Robayo, these players each take up a Senior Roster spot. Austin Berry should take up a Supplemental Roster spot. Their recent signings mean they aren't going anywhere for awhile. Dube is the most vulnerable if push comes to shove. Robayo and Berry could be here for years to come.

Roster Spot Team Player Position Base Salary Guaranteed Comp Roster Type Age
Supplemental (1) CHI Berry Austin D N/A N/A Domestic 23
Senior (1) CHI Dube Kheli F $90,000 $99,000 Domestic 28
Senior (2) CHI Puppo Federico F N/A N/A International (1) 25
Senior (3) CHI Robayo Rafael M N/A N/A International (2) 27

The Firm

Twelve players enter the 2012 preseason having been on the Chicago Fire Senior Roster in 2011. Jay Nolly is added to this list because he has been on MLS Senior Rosters before. Once a player goes Senior Roster, there's no going back to Supplemental.

Sebastian Grazzini, Marco Pappa and Pavel Pardo take up three more International roster slots. Overall, the Senior Roster spots total up to 16 at this point. The only two players I could see the Fire cutting before the start of the season are Michael Videira and Kwame Watson-Siriboe. However, both players' odds of staying on the squad have improved for different reasons. Watson-Siriboe is needed for CB depth. Videira has a pretty good chance at winning the backup fullback job. He started two of the last four Fire games in 2011 at RB. Klopas played Videira at RB with the second group during the preseason game vs. D.C. United on Sunday.

Roster Spot Team Player Position Base Salary Guaranteed Comp Roster Type Age
Senior (4) CHI Gargan Dan D $70,000 $70,000 Domestic 29
Senior (5) CHI Gibbs Cory D $150,000 $150,000 Domestic 32
Senior (6) CHI Grazzini Sebastian M $48,000 $48,000 International (3) 31
Senior (7) CHI Nolly Jay GK $65,000 $65,000 Domestic 29
Senior (8) CHI Nyarko Patrick F $110,000 $190,000 Domestic 26
Senior (9) CHI Oduro Dominic F $95,004 $97,004 Domestic 26
Senior (10) CHI Paladini Daniel M $75,000 $79,478 Domestic 27
Senior (11) CHI Pappa Marco M $120,000 $125,000 International (4) 24
Senior (12) CHI Pardo Pavel M $129,996 $159,996 International (5) 35
Senior (13) CHI Pause Logan M $176,000 $184,125 Domestic 30
Senior (14) CHI Segares Gonzalo D $160,000 $167,750 Domestic 29
Senior (15) CHI Videira Michael M $42,000 $42,625 Domestic 26
Senior (16) CHI Watson-Siriboe Kwame D $44,000 $44,000 Domestic 25

In Limbo

Jalil Anibaba, Sean Johnson and Orr Barouch were all on the Supplemental Roster last year. However, there's reason to believe all three might be promoted. If I had to guess, I'd say Jalil Anibaba stays on the Supplemental Roster while Sean Johnson and Orr Barouch are promoted to the Senior Roster. Anibaba's minutes in 2011 and pay suggest he could be bumped up but there's no mechanism I know of that would force the team to do that yet. Johnson on the other hand graduated from the Generation adidas program over the off-season. Almost Generation adidas grads are promoted to the senior roster the next year. Johnson is 22 so I give it an outside chance he's still Supplemental.

Barouch's potential status upgrade lies in the fact that the team purchased his rights in the off-season. His salary will likely look very high when the new MLS Players Union numbers come out this spring because the team used allocation money to buy out his rights. At least, I certainly hope they did given the MLS Rules.

Each year the MLS Competition Committee determines the allocation amount to be made available to each club. Allocation money can be traded by clubs. Allocation money does not count against a club's salary budget and can be used:

  • In connection with the exercise of an option to purchase a player's rights or the extension of a player's contract for the second year provided the player was new to MLS in the immediately prior year.

The rules don't cover whether or not this bumps Barouch up but it just feels like something MLS would make happen. I'll project that going in 2012, Jalil Anibaba stays Supplemental while Johnson and Barouch start taking up Senior Roster spots.

Roster Spot Team Player Position Base Salary Guaranteed Comp Roster Type Age
Supplemental (2) CHI Anibaba Jalil D $42,000 $82,000 Domestic 23
Senior (17) CHI Barouch Orr F $32,600 $32,600 Domestic 20
Senior (18) CHI Johnson Sean
GK $75,000 $108,000 Domestic 22

Supplemental

Next we have the easy task of listing the Supplemental Roster guys. There's nothing here to suggest that these five guys would be anything but Supplemental going into the new season.

Roster Spot Team Player Position Base Salary Guaranteed Comp Roster Type Age
Supplemental (3) CHI Bone Corben M $90,000 $151,200 Domestic 23
Supplemental (4) CHI Gulley Kellen F $48,000 $62,000 Domestic 17
Supplemental (5) CHI Kinney Steven D $42,000 $42,000 Domestic 24
Supplemental (6) CHI Pantazopoulos Pari D $32,604 $32,604 Domestic 23
Supplemental (7) CHI Pineda Victor M $42,000 $48,742 Domestic 18

What spots are up in the air? Who is still in camp?

Based on projections, there are 2 Senior Roster spots and 3 Supplemental Roster spots out there to be snatched up. Even if you don't agree and think there are 4 Senior Roster spots and 1 spot on the Supplemental Roster or whatever combination, there's no arguing that the team could take on 5 new players if they wanted. The Chicago Fire could also enter the 2012 season with the team they have right now as long as they picked up a third goalie. That's why there are still three goalies among the 10 non-roster players in preseason camp.

Roster Spot Team Player Position Base Salary Guaranteed Comp Roster Type Age
Invite
Alex
M N/A N/A ??? ??
Draft Chavez Justin D N/A N/A Domestic 21
Draft Frimpong Evans F N/A N/A Domestic 22
Invite Guerrero Ivan M N/A N/A Domestic 34
Draft Jumper Hunter D N/A N/A Domestic 22
Invite Kann Alec GK N/A N/A Domestic 22
Draft Mkosana Lucky F N/A N/A Domestic 24
Invite Okafor Jon D N/A N/A Domestic 22
Invite Persad Omar M N/A N/A Domestic 23
Open Try-out
Pittaluga Fabrizio M N/A N/A Domestic 22
Invite
Restrepo Walter M N/A N/A Domestic 23
Invite
Tornaghi Paulo GK N/A N/A International 23
Draft
Walls Tony M N/A N/A Domestic 23
Draft Woszczynski Carl GK N/A N/A Domestic 23

Draft pick Carl Woszczynski started with the Fire's first team against D.C. on Sunday. Paulo Tornaghi came second. Alec Kann rolled out with the third group. All three goalies might be with the team for another week or more before this gets sorted out. Frank Klopas said they were giving Sean Johnson a rest from USMNT duty by delaying his arrival in camp until February 8th. That is happening but it also allows the team to evaluate the third goalie spot without facing questions on why Johnson is sitting out every game. I like Woszczynski to win in the end. Tornaghi would almost certainly take up International (6). Unless there's more long-term potential for the Italian, that would be an incredible waste of resources. I don't know more about Kann other than the fact he is from the south. Wosczcynski at least grew up a Fire fan and already bleeds cf97. That's a tie breaker over Kann if it becomes a coin flip between the two.

The Fire remain stacked at midfield. It's no surprise that when the team made its first cuts on Sunday, midfielders Omar Presad, Fabrizio Pittaluga, and Walter Restrepo were three of the four to go. Fullback Jon Okafor was the fourth. Tony Walls is a former Chicago Fire PDL player that the team selected with the 47th pick in the Supplemental Draft. Players selected around there usually do not latch onto the team but signing Walls to one of the Supplemental Roster spots for the $32,600 minimum wouldn't be the worst move ever if he can keep up the first team in practice.

The more intriguing midfielder here is 'Alex'. We don't know much about him because the team is keeping his identity a secret for 'discovery signing' reasons. He did start in Sebastian Grazzini's spot in the 4-3-1-2 with the first team. The few bits the Fire tweeted made it sound like he had an exciting run or two. The little I've been able to gather is that he would take up an international spot. If he can create in the midfield anywhere close to Grazzini, count me in. Daniel Paladini showed last year that he is a defensive midfielder at the MLS level. I still think Corben Bone deserves a shot in the creative role but apparently the team doesn't. It remains to be seen how Robayo will be used. There's a small chance that this Alex guy could be really talented. Seattle's Mauro Rosales went through last year's preseason camp under a similar sort of secrecy and became a MLS MVP candidate.

On forwards, Lucky Mkosana and Evans Frimpong are still training with the team. If you count Nyarko as a forward, Mkosana or Frimpong would make 7 forwards on the roster. That's the same number that Klopas & company carried last year so if either player is willing to take the $32,600 minimum, one of them should make the team. How much playing time they will get might match Davis Paul and Gabriel Ferrari but there's room for another forward.

Last but certainly not least is the defense. I've listed Ivan Guerrero as a midfielder because that's where he has played historically. However, Guerrero is in 2012 preseason camp as a possibility for the backup fullback position on the team. His competition at the moment is draft pick Hunter Jumper. The remaining player, Justin Chavez, is firmly a center back. Guerrero would add even more leadership along with some Fire nostalgia. Jumper would take up a Supplemental Roster spot. Chavez would add depth to the center backs and only take up a Supplemental Roster spot. Like Walls though, Chavez was drafted at a point where most of those players get cut from the team. Chicago might be able to find a center back that would qualify as Supplemental from another source. They might decide to hold out on center back depth for quite some time.

Final Guess

I'll make my own stab at the roster. I'm bringing in Frimpong, Guerrero, Jumper, Mkosana, and Woczcynski. I'm cutting Pantazopoulos. My Fire squad would be stocked with forwards (even more than Klopas had in 2011), have fullbacks to spare with Guerrero, Jumper and Videira competing for the top fullback spot. Guerrero and Videira could see some time in the midfield in Reserve League games and at practice. I would try and use Jumper as an emergency central defender. We would be light on center backs (only Anibaba, Berry, Gibbs, and Watson-Siriboe), but I'm keeping a Senior Roster spot open so we can make a trade or make a signing for another CB if needed. What would you do if putting together the 2012 Chicago Fire roster?

Senior Roster

Roster Spot Team Player Position Roster Type Age
Senior (1) CHI Barouch Orr F Domestic 20
Senior (2)
CHI Dube Kheli F Domestic 23
Senior (3)
CHI Gagran Dan D Domestic 29
Senior (4)
CHI Gibbs Cory D Domestic 32
Senior (5)
CHI Grazzini Sebastian M International (1)
31
Senior (6)
CHI Guerrero Ivan D Domestic 34
Senior (7)
CHI Johnson Sean GK Domestic 22
Senior (8)
CHI Nolly Jay GK Domestic 30
Senior (9)
CHI Nyarko Patrick F Domestic 26
Senior (10)
CHI Oduro Dominic F Domestic 26
Senior (11)
CHI Paladini Daniel M Domestic 27
Senior (12)
CHI Pappa Marco M International (2)
24
Senior (13)
CHI Pardo Pavel M International (3)
35
Senior (14)
CHI Pause Logan M Domestic 30
Senior (15)
CHI Puppo Federico F International (4)
25
Senior (16)
CHI Robayo Rafael M International (5)
27
Senior (17)
CHI Segares Gonzalo D Domestic 29
Senior (18)
CHI Videira Michael D Domestic 26
Senior (19)
CHI Watson-Siriboe Kwame D Domestic 25
Senior (20)
CHI

Supplemental Roster

Roster Spot Team Player Position Roster Type Age
Supplemental (1) CHI Anibaba Jalil D Domestic 23
Supplemental (2) CHI Berry Austin D Domestic 23
Supplemental (3) CHI Bone Corben M Domestic 23
Supplemental (4) CHI Frimpong Evans F Domestic 22
Supplemental (5) CHI Gulley Kellen F Domestic 17
Supplemental (6) CHI Jumper Hunter D Domestic 23
Supplemental (7) CHI Kinney Steven D Domestic 24
Supplemental (8) CHI Mkosana Lucky F Domestic 24
Supplemental (9) CHI Pineda Victor M Domestic 18
Supplemental (10) CHI Woczcynski Carl GK Domestic 23
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