The MLS offseason is a busy time for fans across the country. Clubs can be linked to any player across the world, and it becomes a challenge to figure out what story points to a possible signing and what’s just another unfounded rumor. The league has so many rules and regulations that it becomes quite difficult to keep track of everything that is going on. Just keeping track of the four types of draft teams have had to navigate this offseason (Expansion, Waiver, Re-Entry, and the SuperDraft) and all their different sets of rules is enough to make your head spin.
All that considered, it’s easy for fans to forget every piece of offseason business done by their club. That is especially true for Chicago Fire fans.
With the 2018 MLS season only a few weeks away, let’s take a look at who has left the team so far.
The departures began on November 28th, when the club announced whose players’ contracts had been picked up, and whose had been declined. In total, seven players had their options for 2018 denied: Joey Calistri, Matej Dekovic, Patrick Doody, Collin Fernandez, John Goossens, Michael Harrington and Richard Sanchez. Sanchez would be the only one of these players to later resign with the club. Both Calistri and Fernandez spent 2017 in Tulsa on loan and had promising campaigns, which made it a slight disappointment to see them leave the Fire before getting another chance in Chicago. Dekovic only made one appearance this past season, coming on late in the Open Cup vs St Louis.
Goossens also only made one appearance in 2017, but the circumstances were different. The former Ajax man started the season opener in Columbus and put in a good showing in central midfield. However, he suffered a brutal ankle injury in the final minute that put him on the shelf for the rest of the year. Harrington, a former MLS All Star, never performed at a high enough level with the Fire and became a bench warmer once Polster returned from injury.
Doody might have been the saddest departure for fans, as he was a popular figure with the fanbase. The Homegrown player was a capable backup option at the fullback position, even grabbing three assists in one match the previous year. Doody has since announced his retirement from professional soccer.
Our good friend @PatrickDoody19 is calling it a career. We have many good memories of him representing us on the field with @SaintLouisFC. Always a class act. We wish him well in whatever he does next. pic.twitter.com/khqeXObLPE— St.Louligans ☠️ (@StLouligans) February 13, 2018
The Fire also announced that they were declining the option to buy Juninho at the end of his loan, sending him back to Tijuana. The former Galaxy midfielder was decent enough when called upon, but the Brazilian never really lived up to expectations in Chicago.
Joao Meira also left the club soon after, turning down a contract extension to return to his native Portugal. The centerback was a starter throughout the season, but the club did not feel he was worth the kind of salary that the player was demanding.
December 10th saw the Fire trade away Arturo Alvarez to the Houston Dynamo. The El Salvador international had a decent two-year spell at the club, filling in when need be while bringing plenty of league experience to the team.
A week later, David Arshakyan was finally released from the club. The Armenian was more of an inside joke than an actual soccer player, and might have just been the worst player to ever put on the Fire kit. (Which is saying something.)
January brought more departures, as Jorge Bava and the Fire mutually agreed to part ways. The Chilean was brought in to be the starting keeper in Chicago, but only played in eight MLS matches before picking up an injury that took him out for the season.
All this led up to an eventful Draft Day.
Nelson Rodriguez has made Draft Day a whirlwind event for Fire fans the past two seasons and 2018 was no different. The day started with Chicago trading goalkeeper Matt Lampson and cash to Minnesota United to acquire the #5 pick. Lampson took the starting spot from Sean Johnson the year before in a move that sparked some heated discussions among the Fire community. The signing of Richard Sanchez, and Lampson’s sustained struggles in goal, fueled debate for months.
But that move paled in comparison to what happened next, in what was easily one of the most talked-about trades of the offseason. The Fire sent star DP winger David Accam for the Philadelphia Union for $1.2 million in allocation money, radically changing the makeup of the team AND redistributing the balance of power in the Eastern Conference in one fell swoop. Accam had been a key player for the Fire ever since joining the club, and almost carried the team toward the end of the Yallop years. He was at his best last season, scoring 14 goals while dishing out eight assists. Yet it was clear that there was a disconnect between the player and management. Accam made it no secret that he wanted to try his luck abroad, and the relationship was further frayed when Paunovic left the Ghanaian off the All Star team. Now, we can only wait and see how this trade pans out for both sides.
With the roster as thin as is at the moment, you would think that the Fire are done with the roster as far as subtractions are concerned. But with a GM like Nelson Rodriguez, you can never be too sure.