The Fire announced the end-of-season roster decisions today, and there were a few surprises. Three players who were out of contract were not renewed, namely Jonathan Bornstein, Andre Reynolds, and Boris Sekulić, while Wyatt Omsberg and Kendall Burks were renewed for next season.
Bornstein, who will turn 38 this week, leaves the club after three-and-a-half seasons. While he has fallen out of the starting lineup over the last two years, Bornstein has been a leader and a great presence in the locker room. The veteran left-back brought a wealth of experience to the young team, having played at the 2010 World Cup and overseas in Mexico and Israel since his MLS career began in 2006. While it is disappointing to see Bornstein leave the club, it is understandable why the sporting staff decided not to offer a new deal to a player who likely wouldn’t have seen many minutes in 2023. Bornstein will be eligible for free agency, though it is also possible he could announce his retirement.
The departure of Bornstein opens up the backup left-back spot on the Fire’s depth chart, and the frontrunner to replace him there would have been the 21-year-old homegrown AJ Reynolds II. Despite earning a run of games towards the end of the season, including four starts for the first team, his option was declined, and his Fire career has come to an end. Reynolds signed a homegrown contract in 2019, after previously committing to play soccer at Brown; in his four seasons, he made 14 appearances for the Fire, 12 of which came in 2022. Reynolds could theoretically end up playing elsewhere in MLS if he is picked up in the Re-Entry Draft on November 17th.
Boris Sekulić is a player whose departure was already known, as head coach Ezra Hendrickson had insinuated it during his end-of-season press conference two weeks ago. Boki was the Fire’s most reliable and consistent player over the last three seasons, but despite the defensive stability he brings, he isn’t necessarily what Ezra Hendrickson is looking for in a right-back. Heitz and the sporting staff were not interested in negotiating a new contract for Sekulić, even at a pay cut; he could now end up elsewhere in MLS, as he is eligible for the Re-Entry Draft. The Fire will be looking for a new right-back in 2023, and Hendrickson has made it clear that the position is a priority.
The first of the two players who had their options picked up was Wyatt Omsberg. Omsberg had a bright start to last season with the Fire and earned the starting job at center back next to Rafa Czichos. His performances early in the year even made him the highest-rated Fire player of 2022. However, a long-term injury kept him out for the entire second half of the season. It was a no-brainer to bring him back for 2023, and now he will compete with Carlos Terán for the starting job.
Kendall Burks also had his contract renewed following his rookie season. The lone 2022 SuperDraft signing on the roster made a few appearances toward the end of the year after a strong season mostly with Fire II. Burks is a valuable depth option for the future and someone Hendrickson has said could play a bigger role next season.