The cliché of a “rollercoaster” of a season is definitively overused, but there is no better way to describe the Chicago Fire’s 2022. After a strong start, the Men in Red embarked on a 10-game winless run, and despite a brief resurgence in midsummer, they failed to qualify for the playoffs for the ninth time in ten seasons.
Throughout the season, every player had many ups and downs, and we’ve been tracking their performances through player ratings after most matches. Now that the year is over, it’s time to add up the averages for each player and evaluate who had the best and worst seasons. Let’s take a brief look at every member of the squad, and see how they stacked up.
Note: The system isn’t perfect because starts and substitute appearances are weighted equally, but this is just intended to tie together the player ratings throughout the year. Also, there were a few games after which we didn’t write full player ratings, but we still took those games into account.
The Top 3
Only three players managed to get average ratings above 7 over the course of the season. Interestingly, all three had a large portion of the year during which they were unavailable.
Wyatt Omsberg (7.04) — The breakout star of the first portion of the season was Omsberg, who stepped up as a starter in the absence of Carlos Terán. This run of form came as a surprise given how sporadically he has played in MLS in the past, and he kept the starting spot even when Terán returned from injury. Omsberg maintained his high rating partly due to a season-ending foot injury in June which kept him out for the entire second half of the year. He’ll be back in 2023, and it will be interesting to see if he can win back the starting job from Carlos Terán, who closed out 2022 well.
Gastón Giménez (7.02) — Somewhat surprisingly, Giménez finishes the year as the Fire’s second highest-rated player. While he didn’t have too many standout performances (after the initial unbeaten streak in the winter), he was consistently above average and was, for the most part, reliable. While Gastón has never quite lived up to his DP label, he could still be a valuable asset as a TAM player if he returns from injury the same as he was in 2022.
Chris Mueller (7.00) — Mueller would have been the Fire’s highest-rated player if he didn’t tail off in the last few weeks of the season. The 26-year-old was a perfect addition when he was brought in on deadline day in May and should be a piece to build the attack around in 2023. He has been the Fire’s most impactful attacker and was one of the driving forces behind the team’s strong performances in the summer.
The other standouts
A few other players had relatively good seasons, even if they couldn’t quite breach the 7.0 mark.
Brian Gutiérrez (6.95) — Guti played in more Fire matches this season than any other player, which is something no one would have predicted at the start of the year. He played in every match save one (when he was suspended) and his performances steadily improved over the course of the year as he earned a starting spot. After a start that was inconsistent at best, the 19-year-old exploded from July onward and emerged as a valuable piece for both the Fire and the US U20s. He is primed for an even better 2023 as he looks to lock down the starting job for another season.
Xherdan Shaqiri (6.93) — The 8.1 million dollar man had an interesting first season in MLS. Riddled by injuries and inconsistencies, Shaqiri never quite got into a rhythm that would allow him to play at his best for extended periods. However, he regularly showed glimpses of his world-class ability and occasionally put in performances that made you remember why he was the best-paid player in the league upon his arrival. At the end of the day, though, it simply wasn’t good enough when considering his price tag and salary.
Fede Navarro (6.93) — The young Argentine midfielder quietly had another great season after being named the team’s MVP in 2021. Whether partnered with Gastón Giménez or Mauricio Pineda, Navarro was consistently above average and a strong presence in defensive midfield while chipping in with a pair of crucial goals against Philadelphia and Charlotte over the summer.
Jhon Durán (6.83) — One of the stories of the season was the rapid ascent of Durán. The 18-year-old arrived as a raw talent at the start of the season and showed immaturity both on and off the field. However, he has shown incredible growth in all facets, and by the end of the season, Durán was the team’s top goalscorer with 8 goals while adding 3 assists. He is now a $10 million Colombian international, with clubs like Chelsea, Liverpool, and Real Madrid supposedly in his orbit, and a much more complete and effective player than the one who started the season.
Gaga Slonina (6.81) — In his final season as a Fire player before joining Chelsea for $15 million, Gaga had some of the highest highs and some of the lowest lows. It was his first full season as a #1, and early in the year, Slonina put in some real real-scratchers, and a run of poor performances in May around the time he was making his international decision cost the Fire several points. However, he turned it around in the summer, and by the fall, he was single-handedly keeping his team in games and making up for the mistakes he made earlier in the year. Gaga has shown tremendous growth in 2022 with his positioning and passing and will be great wherever he ends up playing next.
Rafa Czichos (6.78) — Several of the highlights of the Fire’s season had Czichos moments at the forefront, and it’s impossible to deny that he was a dramatic improvement over Francisco Calvo at the heart of the defensive line. Czichos has been a strong leader and has been a great captain. However, he had several very poor outings, and many of the Fire’s worst games of the season were defined by defensive lapses. Nonetheless, his overall impact has been solid, and he has certainly been an upgrade.
These players weren’t bad, but they weren’t among the top performers over the course of the year. All of these should be a part of the plans for next season in an ideal world.
Boris Sekulić (6.76) — Over the three seasons of the Heitz era, Boki has been possibly the Fire’s most consistent and reliable player. Not a standout, nor someone who will win games on his own, but he has been a steady presence at the right back position who has never looked out of place. In all likelihood, Sekulić won’t be back in 2023, as his contract is up and there aren’t negotiations for a new deal, even at a pay cut. Though he isn’t the flashiest player, it’s a shame that he won’t be able to stick around.
Carlos Terán (6.70) — A player who showed some growth in 2022 was Terán, the starter for the entire second half of the season with Wyatt Omsberg out. Terán’s first two years in Chicago were defined by injury, and he also missed the opening portion of the season for that reason. After some really bad games in May, he turned a corner, and while he isn’t perfect, the Colombian international played relatively well in the final portion of the season and did enough that there will be a battle for the starting job with Omsberg at the start of 2023.
Mauricio Pineda (6.65) — Another extremely consistent and reliable player was Pineda, who proved a reliable backup in two positions throughout his third season in MLS. Though he was never exceptional, the homegrown stepped up whenever called upon and, for the most part, played to the level expected of him.
Miguel Ángel Navarro (6.61) — Navarro has shown steady growth over his three seasons in MLS. When he arrived in 2020, he was inconsistent and error-prone, but now he is becoming a much more well-rounded player. The Venezuelan international is the future of the Fire’s left back position, and while he still has growing to do, there are only reasons for optimism that he can fill that role for years to come.
Jonathan Bornstein (6.48) — Bornstein is just a few weeks shy of his 38th birthday, and his contract is up at the end of this season. However, he has been a valuable member of the squad. Despite some limitations brought about by his age, he has been reliable when called upon in a variety of unfamiliar positions. Aside from his natural position as a left back, Bornstein has played on the left wing, center back, and even in central midfield; his experience and leadership have been excellent assets in the locker room, and if possible, the Fire should try to keep him around in 2023.
Room for improvement
Some players certainly have a role going forward but didn’t quite make an impact in 2022.
Javi Casas Jr. (6.40) — The homegrown midfield only accumulated 34 minutes in MLS this season, and none of his 5 appearances in the league were particularly notable. He had a relatively good season for Fire II, but there is still a long way to go before he will be ready to be a significant contributor in MLS.
Fabian Herbers (6.35) — It should be mentioned that Herbers had some high points in the season; his game-winner against DC United in July to snap the 10-game losing streak comes to mind. However, for the most part, he has been average or slightly below average. Herbers still holds value as a depth piece, squad player, and locker-room presence, but he isn’t someone who can be relied upon to change a game or make a significant impact.
Kendall Burks (6.33) — It took a very long time for Burks to get opportunities in the first team, but the rookie showed promise in the limited minutes that he did get. Burks had a good year in MLS Next Pro, playing as a center-back and occasionally as a full back, and he was competent in his two starts at the end of the year. He has the potential to be relied upon more next season, even if he has a long way to go to be a starter.
Andre Reynolds II (6.25) — Reynolds is steadily playing a more prominent role for the Fire year after year, and in 2022 he was called upon 13 times. A good chunk of his minutes were out of position, so it’s difficult to evaluate, but between his time with the first team and Fire II, Reynolds was solid and is showing potential.
A few players fell a good distance short of what was expected of them and had definitively poor seasons. What consequences this should have varies by player, but all of them should certainly be assessed by the staff more than some others.
Stanislav Ivanov (6.13) — Ivanov had an incredibly forgettable season apart from a game-winning goal in the snow in March against DC United. He didn’t have any noteworthy moments apart from that one goal, and it would be surprising if the Fire didn’t try to shop him in the offseason. It’s difficult to fathom why he was signed as a TAM player.
Jairo Torres (6.11) — Yes, Torres has been riddled with injury throughout the year. But the Mexican YDP was the most disappointing player for the Fire in 2022. There is plenty of time for Jairo to come good, and he has talent, but he had a total lack of end product this season and could never stay fully healthy.
Chinonso Offor* (5.90) — Offor isn’t a Fire player anymore. He was shipped to Montréal on deadline day in the summer, never played a minute, and is now somehow playing in the Belgian top flight for SV Zulte Waregem (he has 4 games and 1 goal this season for them already). Things never worked out for him in Chicago, though he scored against Atlanta United in one of his eight appearances this season. It will be tough to recoup the full $1 million transfer fee.
Kacper Przybyłko (5.82) — If Torres was the most disappointing Fire player this season, Przybyłko has to be a close second. The Polish striker was signed to be a reliable, proven MLS goalscorer, and he only managed to get on the scoresheet in three games. Przybyłko arrived with chronic back issues, and those held him back all season, but at the end of the day, it is a colossal failure that a $1.25 million GAM signing lost the starting job to an 18-year-old and ended the season on just 5 goals.
Jhon Espinoza (5.73) — If Boris Sekulić is to leave the Fire this offseason, Espinoza is simply not good enough to be his successor. In all of his appearances this year, the Ecuadorian fullback has been extremely poor and is not up to the level to play in MLS. With Sekulić being gone, the Fire should be looking for both a starter and a backup at right back.
Sample size too small
Most of the players in this category primarily played for Fire II and only made one or two appearances for the first team in 2022. All but one are homegrowns.
Victor Bezerra (5.75) — Most of Bezerra’s appearances were too short to be of any consequence, and often he just made brief cameos at the end. In some of those appearances, he showed glimpses of what he could be, and he should play a more significant role next season after finishing as Fire II’s top goalscorer.
Spencer Richey (6.00) — Not too much to say here; Richey was signed as a stopgap backup, and he filled that role just fine. In his only MLS appearance, he helped the team to a 3-2 win over Cincinnati, one of the best wins of the season.
Missael Rodríguez (6.00) — In his first year on a first-team deal, Rodríguez had a decent season for Fire II, scoring 7 goals. His only first-team appearance was in the Open Cup on the wing, so it’s difficult to make much of an assessment based on that.
Sergio Oregel Jr (7.00) — Oregel primarily played with Fire II this year and was consistently one of the better players on that team. Sergio made his MLS debut with a 12-minute cameo in the last game of the season, and Ezra Hendrickson has said that he should play a more prominent role in 2023.
Chris Brady (7.50) — Brady didn’t finally make his MLS debut until Decision Day, but it was a bumper year for the 18-year-old goalkeeper. Brady was the best goalkeeper in MLS Next Pro and only averaged 0.83 goals conceded per game, well below the league average of 1.70 per 90. He also helped the US qualify for the Olympics in men’s soccer for the first time since 2008 and won the Golden Glove at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship. Next year, Brady should absolutely be given the opportunity to be the #1, because there are few players in North America with more potential for a bright future.
Alex Monis (10.00) — We gave Alex Monis a 10 for his game-tying goal on the final day, in which he scored with his only touch of the entire season. It remains to be seen whether he will be able to play a bigger role in 2023, but he took the one opportunity he got in 2022, and that’s all you can ask for.
Didn’t play at all
Only one player fits into this category.
Allan Rodríguez (NR) — When Monis stepped onto the field in the 89th minute of the final game of the season, it meant that Allan Rodríguez remained as the only player on the roster not to play in 2022. He did not make a single first team gameday roster all season, including the friendly against Leon during the international break. Rodríguez is under contract until 2023, but it seems unlikely that he will be renewed beyond that point and it’s unclear what the plan for him is given that he wasn’t even training with the first team.
Ezra Hendrickson (6.40) — As the Fire didn’t make the playoffs, the season can’t be classified as a success. The team dropped many points from winning positions and failed to win games which they should have, and ultimately came up short. Closing out games was a consistent problem all year, and improvement in that area is required. Ezra showed growth over the course of what was his first season as a head coach in MLS, and he has the potential to be a great coach in this league, but as he addressed from the beginning, he still has work to do.
The final team average
Chicago Fire FC (6.61) — Seems about right. Should be better, could’ve been better, but it’s a failure to meet expectations at the end of the day. According to the MLSPA, who released an updated set of player salaries earlier this week, the Chicago Fire had the fifth-highest payroll in the league, and finishing below the playoff line simply isn’t good enough.
Below is a graph showing how the team performed over the course of the season.
And that officially wraps up the 2022 season for our series of player ratings! We hope you enjoyed them.