If there is one consistent thing with the Chicago Fire over the years - that isn’t losing - it is the frequent squad turnaround. Many high-profile players have left the team for greener pastures in the past few years. Today let’s take a look at a few of them and see what they are up to now.
João Meira was part of the brick wall for the Fire’s defense for two seasons (2016-2017). His partnership with Johan Kappelhof was one of the few reasons the Fire performed the way they did for the first half of the 2017 season when they were still in contention for the Supporters’ Shield. After the playoffs, the Fire declined to extend his contract and left for Europe. He signed with Spanish minnows Lorca FC but failed to make an appearance. He has since moved on to five other clubs in the past few years. He currently plays for Leixões S.C. in the Portuguese second division.
Michael de Leeuw
Michael de Leeuw joined the Fire in 2016 as a forward but left as one of the club’s best #8 in recent memory. While the goals didn’t come flying in while he was in a Fire shirt compared to his previous club, FC Groningen, he was the prime example of a quintessential #8. His work rate was unmatched and is something the Fire would benefit from today. At the end of the 2018 season, the club released him. De Leeuw returned to his native Netherlands, where he joined FC Emmen. During his time there, he scored 25 league goals in 71 appearances. He later left the club and re-joined FC Groningen, where he had made his mark before coming to Chicago.
The midfield-turned-right back Matt Polster is one former Fire player that frequently pops up on the hashtag that fans seem to miss. Polster was another key figure during the Fire’s 2017 run. He was the prime example of the modern-day right back. Someone who could defend but switch to an offensive player on the wing if need be - or as the internet would say, he protecc, he attacc, but best of all, he has your bacc. Polster suffered an MCL tear early in the 2018 season, which ruled him out for the rest of the year. The Fire later released him at the end of the season. He later joined the Rangers but failed to make an impact. After a failed stint in Scotland, he returned Stateside (sounds familiar), where he joined the New England Revolution.
The Fire has a scoring problem. No one in the current squad could score to save their life. But you know who doesn’t have a scoring problem? Nemanja Nikolić. The prolific striker netted 51 league goals in 96 MLS matches. He gave it all for the club, even going as far as retiring from the Hungarian National Team to focus on club duties (note, he has since rejoined). The club and Nikolić parted ways at the end of the 2019 season. He returned home to Hungary where he currently plays for Fehérvár FC.
Since the late 2000s, the Fire lacked a true leader out on the pitch - until Dax McCarty came. He wasn’t the flashiest or the most technically gifted player during his tenure but provided leadership and stability throughout his tenure with the club. At the end of the 2019 season, the Fire traded him to then-newcomers Nashville FC, where he has 57 league appearances as of publication.
C. J. Sapong
C.J Sapong was a fan favorite during his time with the Fire. While he wasn’t the prolific striker from his Sporting Kansas City and Philadelphia Union days, he still netted a respectable 15 league goals in 43 appearances. The club declined to extend C.J’s contract at the end of the 2020 season. He later joined Nashville FC as a free agent for the 2021 season. C.J would later haunt the Fire with his new team, scoring the 4th goal in a 5-1 rout later that season. He has since scored 14 more.
There is a lot of discourse around Djordje Mihailovic’s tenure with the Fire, so I’ll spare you even more. The club traded him to the Montreal Impact (now known as CF Montreal) in 2021. Since leaving Chicago, he has been on another level. In his first season in Canada, he had a goal contribution of 18, 14 of those were assists. He also lifted the Canadian Championship. Mihailovic continues to impress - as of the publication of this article, he has seven league goals and three assists.
Surely he gets on the plane to Qatar, right?
What former Fire player do you miss the most? Let us know in the comments below.