After two years of unrelenting on-field failure, these kinds of post-season break-up announcements are becoming old hat in Fire-land - but how else to begin again?
Yesterday, Chicago Fire Soccer Club announced it has declined 9 of the 13 contract options on the table for 2016, and has allowed a further four deals to expire without extension.
The Declined & Unextended
Mike Magee: Magee made a wee stink about getting paid after his MLS MVP season, and he finally did get that lettuce - but it was just a two-year deal, and he was never right physically during the contract. Now Magee becomes the classic high risk/high reward signing for - OH RIGHT - everyone in the league because he's a free agent. Sigh. Suspicion is he'll move to another team and absolutely destroy the Fire a couple times a year.
Jeff Larentowicz: Team captain had a year-long struggle after moving to centerback, and was due for a raise from just north of a quarter-million dollars. Suffered in dignity through an absolute career cul-de-sac. If it's true that gingers have no souls, you'd never know it from Big Red's time with the club. In my memory, the Fire's 2015 is an eternal post-loss Jeff Larentowicz interview - the vague statements given depth by the obvious suffering and despair on the guy's face. Jeff Larentowicz is to the 2014-15 Fire what Iron Eyes Cody is to environmental degradation.
Lovel Palmer: Supporters' favorite struggled for playing time after getting benched midseason. Return could depend on how he and Paunovic hit it off. Let's say it here: Mr. Paunovic, if you're wondering, this dude is super popular, basically a free badass PR hire as well as a flexible backup outside back or deep midfielder.
Jon Busch: Veteran seemed set to return as a quality backup in '16, but new brass thinks differently, apparently.
Razvan Cocis: He's got a green card and he's only 32, so there's some chance we could see him back with CF97 under a lesser deal. His strengths are the kind of things smart coaches love - he takes up interesting positions that make things difficult and plays largely with his mind. But he can struggle with the whirling abbatoir that is an MLS midfield sometimes.
Adailton: Brazilian displayed an implacable calm except for the moments where he was getting beaten badly for pace or golfing in a couple of autogols. And he got hurt. Pffffffffft.
Chris Ritter: Homegrown player showed some bite and an ability to hit a lovely long ball, but his lack of lateral quickness made him a liability in too many defensive situations. If I was a lower-league GM, I'd talk to him about playing centerback for my team of heartbreaking beauty.
Matt Watson: Watson is maybe the hoopiest frood in all of MLS, a vegan ninja with three lungs and a beautiful family. He may not play for the Fire any more, but I straight-up guarantee he knows where his towel is.
Greg Cochrane: Left wingback combines well and can shape a cross, but gets physically dominated by MLS wide men. Watching Cochrane freeze a guy to get the space for a cross - successfully - only to see that guy (just frozen) make up the ground in the two steps it takes to get the cross off and block it out for a throw ... well, that makes Baby Jesus cry.
Jason Johnson: Johnson was acquired in a trade with Houston, and showed some energy. Alex, the guy he was traded for, also was noted for showing energy. Now neither are with the Fire, who presumably have some plan for the always-necessary 'guy who shows energy' roster slot.
Daneil Cyrus: Cyrus' loan was always a sort of extended tryout. Conclusions: Dude is tall. More conclusions: He's not going to play for the Fire.
Alec Kann: By all reports, Kann is a solid young backup keeper who's more than willing to stay in that role for now. By this report, he's no longer welcome to do so. So that's what up with that.
Ty Harden: Harden may have succumbed to the career-ended trifecta of Yallop/Fire/injury. He showed very little in very limited minutes after coming over from San Jose.
Harry Shipp: The fact that Shipp's Homegrown deal had a club option after only two years was something of a surprise, but the club exercising it was nothing of the sort. Shipp struggled at times in a disjointed Fire attack in 2015, but is still one of the elite young attacking talents in the league.
Matt Polster: That the Fire kept Polster around is nearly as unsurprising as their retention of Shipp. A finalist for MLS Rookie of the Year, the kid from SIU-Edwardsville looks like a real building block for the future.
Patrick Doody: By the end of the season, Doody's steady, physical play at left back had displaced the more fantastical stylings of Joevin Jones. The Homegrown defender progressed steadily through a loan to USL affiliate Saint Louis FC.
Kingsley Bryce: Bryce was another guy who made a USL loan work for him. Considered a long-shot draft pick, he impressed at St. Louis before injury cut his season short. Looked good again after coming back late in the season.
Those Grandees Who Disdained This Exercise (i.e., people already under contract)
This group includes David Accam, Kennedy Igboananike, Gilberto, Patrick Nyarko, Collin Fernandez, Michael Stephens, Joevin Jones, Eric Gehrig, and Sean Johnson.
Words of peace for folks who are perhaps taking this all a bit too seriously
There is absolutely no reason some of these players won't end up on the Fire in 2016. If you're hoping for a particular player to return (and we hear you, Lovel Palmer fanfolks), they're just a successful negotiation away from coming back.