It’s early September, meaning Georg Heitz and his staff are probably well on their way toward figuring out who will be coming back to the Chicago Fire next season. Around a dozen players have contracts expiring at the end of this season—some have club options, others do not.
This much is clear: Jonathan Bornstein must be one of the players coming back next season. He’s out of contract after this season without a club option, but a new deal should be a no brainer.
He’s the oldest player a team in the middle of a youth movement, but there should be no doubt that Jonny B is worth every penny of his current $323,000 salary. In a season that’s seen more downs than ups, the 36-year-old has been a steady force in the back. As I argued the other day on Twitter, he’s in great shape, works his ass off, is smart, is a leader (especially when he’s had to step in as captain in Francisco Calvo’s absence), and on top of all that, he’s developed a positive bond with the fans.
Sure, Bornstein might be a bit slower next season. And he might need a day off on those busy, three-match weeks. But what he brings to the team far outweighs his downside. To paraphrase what Bornstein once told me, if the young players see a guy at his age still working as hard as he can every day, there should be no excuses for anyone else.
Bornstein’s had a wild career. From Chivas USA (where he played with Raphael Wicky) to his last minute USMNT goal that made him a national hero in Honduras, to the 2010 World Cup where he watched Landon Donovan’s goal against Algeria, to his seven years in Mexico where he won trophies, and was even teammates with Ronaldinho at Queretaro, to Israel, and back to the MLS with the Fire—Bornstein’s seen just about everything.
Bornstein has said many times he wants to play until he’s 40. Hopefully, Heitz and Co. give him a new deal that helps him get closer to making that happen in Chicago.