I think my hiatus from writing about the Fire was just long enough. If you didn't notice, I took a break from doing the player ratings in the last couple of months. Like many CF97 supporters, I just needed a break from putting time and effort into the Fire. Did I stop going to games? No, but I did step back and take in each game as a regular fan. I'm glad I did this, as the Fire's quality of play - and the lack of passion from those in charge - was making me angry with the team, and I never wanted supporting this club to come that.
So, now that I'm back, let's rate the Chicago Fire players for the 2015 season.
First, I'd like to remind everyone where the Fire finished the season in the standings: LAST. Thirty points in 34 games played, 19 points out of the last playoff spot, 30 points back of the Supporter Shield winners, and a -15 goal differential, with 43 goals scored and 58 goals given up. The offense was tied for 5th worst in MLS and their defense was tied for dead last in MLS. One of the most telling stats of why the Fire were not a playoff team - besides everything I've already mentioned - was they had no wins on the road in 2015. The Fire also ranked 18th out of 20 teams in average attendance.
The Fire went through the worst year in the history of the club, and Frank Yallop, the architect of the 2015 team, paid for the awful results with his job. Yallop was let go on September 20th with Brian Bliss taking over coaching duties for the remainder of the season. Bliss didn't have much luck turning the team around after displays of uninterested and uninspiring soccer under his watch. More on this later.
Let's rate some players for the season, eh?
Sean Johnson (21 games played with 5 wins, 11 losses and 5 ties. 4 shutouts, 1.52 goal against average and a 65.6 save percentage): Played well despite dealing with injuries seemingly off and on all season long. Produced some spectacular saves despite the porous defense in front of him. He still needs to work on parts of his game in order to be considered a great keeper. Under contract for next season so expect him to be back. Grade: B.
Jon Busch (12 games played with 3 wins, 8 losses, and 1 tie. 1 shutout, 2 goals against average, and a 61.4 save percentage): The 39 year old proved that he still has game and filled in admirably when Johnson was out. There is a club option on him for 2016 and I would expect him to be back as he wants to play another year. His leadership and ability to teach Johnson and Kann would be sorely missed if he is not back in 2016. Grade: B-.
Alec Kann (1 game played, 1 loss, and 2 goals against): Spent most of the time in 2015 with Saint Louis and got to play the plast game of the season in which he gave up 2 goals but like the other 2 keepers those goals were due to the defense. Grade: Incomplete.
Jeff Larentowicz (29 games played as the team's captain with 6 goals scored): Had to play out of position all season long as he was forced to fill in at center back because Yallop and Bliss thought he would be good enough at that position. Jeff tried to be a rock in the backline but that just didn't happen. Whether playing with Gehrig or Adailton the backline just didn't look good all season long. Getting up there in age at 32, he may not have the wheels anymore to keep up at center back. The club has an option for 2016 but will the money be better spent else where? Grade: C.
Joevin Jones (28 games played with 1 goal and 1 assist): Had a great first half at left back most of the time and also left midfield. Linked up well with David Accam as the two speedsters looked to have chemistry with each other. Then something happened after he came back from the Gold Cup. He didn't have the same impact and looked to be a bit off as he finished the season on a slump. Under contract for 2016 he will more than likely be back. Grade: C-.
Adailton (17 games played with 1 goal): He was supposed to be that veteran partner in the center of defense with Jeff Larentowicz. The Brazilian just didn't pan out as a defender capable of keeping up with the speed of MLS play. Most of the season was spent injured. Club option for 2016 and at the price he is at I just don't see him back as the Fire have to upgrade and not stay the same. Grade: C-.
Patrick Doody (7 games played with 1 assist): I honestly can say I didn't see enough of the home grown wing back but what I did see has me hopeful that in the right system he can learn how to be a full time left or right back. Grade: Incomplete.
Lovel Palmer (22 games played with 1 assist): Was the starting right back and then fell out of favor with Yallop. He still can play and I don't see a reason why he isn't back in 2016. He can bring dedication and passion to the locker room as well. Grade: C.
Eric Gehrig (25 games played with 1 assist): I think he was actually the best defender on the team until injury knocked him out for the last part of the season. He will be back next year and can be a valuable player for this team. Grade: C+.
Greg Cochrane (4 games played and spent most of the season in Saint Louis): Don't know if he will be back next year but could be just as a roster filler. Grade: Incomplete.
Ty Harden (3 games played after being traded from San Jose): Spent more time injured than on the field. I don't see him back next year. Grade: Incomplete.
Daneil Cyrus (6 games played): Brought in on loan during the summer and he has the size to be an imposing center back but his time here he just wasn't that good. Grade: D/Incomplete.
David Accam (24 games played with 10 goals and 2 assists): The team's leading scorer was relied upon heavily to be the team's main offensive weapon. He's got speed and he can be crafty but I don't think he is good enough to be the focal point of the Fire's offense going forward. He definitely is not going to have an impact like a player like Keane or Giovinco can have. He'll be back in 2016 unless a team in Europe comes in and makes an offer that is too good for the Fire to pass up. Grade: B.
Harry Shipp (33 games played with 3 goals and 8 assists): There was a sophomore slump for Harry but the blame could be mostly put onto the shoulders of Frank Yallop who used him out of position on the wing. Shipp is a classic #10 that needs to be in the middle creating and not on the outside where he can disappear because of the defensive requirements of the position. He will definitely be back in 2016. Grade: B-.
Patrick Nyarko (19 games played with 3 goals and 4 assists): Coming back from a long injury layoff, Nyarko reminded everyone why he is valuable to this team. After he came back it looked as though he didn't lose a step as he marauded down the right side. He'll be back in 2016. Grade: B.
Razvan Cocis (26 games played with 2 goals and 3 assists): It was an up and down season for the Romanian. He showed quality through many of the games but then would disappear during long stretches of other games. Team option for the 32 year old in 2016 and I highly doubt he will be back. Grade: C-.
Matt Polster (30 games played): The Fire's surprise first-round pick was in the conversation for Rookie of the Year until the team's tail-spin over the last six weeks. Still has a ways to go to be an elite defensive midfielder, but seems to have all the physical and technical tools to continue to improve. Grade: B+.
Michael Stephens (20 games played with 4 assists): Brought in last winter in order to fight for a spot in the center of midfield and it just didn't work out that way. He split time with Cocis to partner Polster in midfield. He definitely brought energy and a drive to the team . He'll be back next year as he just signed a contract last winter. Grade: C+.
Matt Watson (13 games played with one assist): One of the players that Yallop liked as a squad player proved to be just that but did not provide a spark while on the field. Not going to be back next year as there will be a new coaching staff that will evaluate him differently than Yallop did. Grade: D+.
Victor Perez and Alex (1 game played each with a total of 10 minutes between them): Yes, they were both on the team this year and provided nothing. Grade: Incomplete.
Collin Fernandez (1 game played): A total of 6 minutes played in MLS and the rest of his time spent at Louisville City, the 18 year old home grown product will be back. In what capacity? That's for the next coaching staff to decide. Grade: Incomplete.
Shaun Maloney (14 games played with 3 goals and 2 assists): Yallop's final piece to his roster puzzle became disillusioned with life in the states and wanted to go back to England once the summer transfer window opened. He was supposed to be the player that took over the game and provided a spark to the Fire's offense. He did nothing of the sort. He came here with high hopes but left just after 14 games. It was a waste of money by the club and he provided nothing. Grade: F.
Kennedy Igboananike (31 games played with 7 goals and 3 assists): A player that Yallop had his eyes on for years came to the team with a DP tag and disappointed everyone for about two-thirds of the season. Then once that DP tag came off due to the targeted allocation money something clicked and he started scoring. Still it was too little, too late. I don't think he'll be back in 2016 as the Fire will more than likely look to offload him, possibly to Yallop's next team. Grade: C-.
Gilberto (10 games played with 5 goals and 2 assists): Came to the Fire via
a league handing us a gift to let go of Drogba waiver claim from TFC and played like any Brazilian striker not named Ronaldo plays. Flashes of brilliance with goals here and there and plenty of diving and whining to the ref. He will probably not be going anywhere in the offseason, as I can see him sticking around to see what he can do in the last year of his contract. Still, that's a lot of money that could be spent on a "Keane like" DP. Grade: C.
Jason Johnson (20 games played with 2 goals and 2 assists): Came over from Houston in the Alex trade and showed he can play and then took a nose dive the rest of the season. Still on a GA contract so he will probably be a bench guy/reserve player in 2016. Grade: C-.
Mike Magee (12 games played with 2 assists): You can't argue the man's heart and love he has for this team but when that team can't properly take care of his injuries it really hampered his time on the playing field and it showed. I really wanted him to have more of an impact this season but it just wasn't meant to be. In all honesty I don't think he'll be back in 2016 as he will try the newly minted "free agency" tool in MLS. Grade: C-.
Quincy Amarikwa (14 games played with 1 assist): Traded to San Jose midseason where he flourished and started scoring which is a complete 180 of all of the whining he did to the refs evey time he was on the ground. Grade: D.
Guly do Prado (15 games played): Uninspired, lazy, and just plain awful is how I describe his time here. Yallop should suspended from all soccer activities for the rest of his life for signing him and Maloney. Grade: F-.
Where do we go from here?
What grades did I get wrong? How should the Fire proceed? Who should stay, who should go?* Please give us your grades in the comments!
*Watch this space for the return of our ever-popular "Marry/Boff/Kill" judgements!