With the 2021 season done and dusted, the Chicago Fire announced roster decisions on nine players heading into next season.
Here’s who won’t be back:
Robert Berić - This one shouldn’t come as any surprise, but after a solid first season in 2020, Berić was ice cold in front of net for most of 2021. His goal scoring picked up at the end of the season, and he managed to finish with eight goals, but it still wasn’t nearly enough for a designated player striker making $2.7 million dollars. The move will free up a DP slot.
Álvaro Medrán - The Spaniard said a few weeks ago that “Georg (Heitz) knows what I want.” Apparently, that was a designated player contract, something Heitz told reporters he wasn’t willing to give Medrán. The midfielder is no doubt talented, but he’s also a bit selfish, and isn’t anywhere near the level of a top level DP in MLS. It would have been nice to see him return, but giving him a DP deal would have been a mistake.
Luka Stojanović - This one will definitely surprise many fans considering Luka’s knack for finding the back on the net in his limited minutes, but the Fire also made the decision to part ways with the Serbian. With eight goals, he was the team’s co-leader along with Berić, despite playing nearly half as many minutes. Stojanović was electrifying on the attack, but showed little interest in defending. Multiple sources indicated Stojanović could be a difficult teammate, especially when he wasn’t playing. Directly after the Sept. 29 NYCFC match at SeatGeek Stadium, sources say Stojanović refused to participate in a standard post-match fitness session, because he was angry he didn’t play much. While he wasn’t officially suspended for the following match against Toronto, he was left out of the squad. Even so, when he was on the field this season, he was, more often than not, Chicago’s best player.
Elliot Collier - The Kiwi was a great teammate, and a decent bottom-of-the-roster player, but was used far too often by former coach Raphael Wicky, especially in 2020. After a solid loan stint at Memphis 901 FC in the USL in 2019 and a great 2020 preseason, Collier never found the back of the net in a regular season game over the last two seasons.
Francisco Calvo - The writing was on the wall for Calvo, who made only one, 15 minute appearance for the club since August. The club’s captain led the league in interceptions in 2020 and was, at times, very good, but his mistakes and mental lapses more than outweighed his positives.
Johan Kappelhof - This one is hard. After a rough, injury filled 2020, Kappelhof hasn’t been up to his old standard of play in 2021. But, Kappelhof will remain a fan favorite due to his hard work and team play for many years before that. The club is making the right move to let him go, but that doesn’t mean this one doesn’t sting a little.
Nick Slonina - Gabriel Slonina’s older brother actually stepped back from soccer months ago. He was due for a loan to Forward Madison FC over the summer, which never happened. Slonina won’t be back with the Fire, but he’ll no doubt be cheering on his younger brother in goal in 2022 and beyond.
Kenneth Kronholm - Another obvious one. Kenny hasn’t played since the summer of 2020 after tearing his ACL, and his rehab had a number of setbacks this season. Kronholm was earning $600,000, so this move will free up a lot of space, and let the club further focus on the development of homegrown keepers Gabriel Slonina and Chris Brady.
Bobby Shuttleworth - The Fire actually wanted Shuttleworth to return for 2022, but as a No. 2 behind Slonina. Shuttleworth apparently felt he could still start elsewhere, and he’s probably right. He was one of the club’s most dependable players since taking over for Kronholm, and although he was understandably not thrilled about losing his starting job to Slonina, he was still there supporting him, and being a quality teammate and mentor. Best of luck to Shuttleworth, wherever he lands.
What about everyone else?
There are two groups remaining. There are several players already under contract: Gaga Slonina, Chris Brady, Mauricio Pineda, Carlos Terán, Miguel Navarro, Jhon Espinoza, Boris Sekulić, Federico Navarro, Allan Rodriguez, Brian Gutierrez, Ignacio Aliseda, Fabian Herbers, Stanislav Ivanov, Chinonso Offor, Alex Monis, Javier Casas, Jr., Sergio Oregel, Jr., Missael Rodriguez, and Jhon Duran, who will join in January. Heitz noted the Fire have already received offers for Duran from European clubs.
Then there’s a third list of guys who aren’t necessarily leaving. Heitz said he’s waiting for the new coach to give input on Jonathan Bornstein, Gastón Giménez, and Wyatt Omsberg. While Bornstein and Omsberg should be easy decisions to return (Bornstein is a leader and still offers a ton; Omsberg is a cheap, solid defender off-the-bench), Giménez is more complicated. He can be a very good box-to-box midfielder, but should not be on a designated player contract. Sources say the Fire are talking to a number of DP-level players; Giménez sticking around may come down to whether the club can land someone else who is better.