As the Chicago Fire undergo changes in seemingly every way imaginable, the roster is also getting a significant overhaul.
The Fire announced their option decisions and only CJ Sapong and Raheem Edwards had their options picked up. Diego Campos, Stefan Cleveland, Elliott Collier, Nicolás Gaitán, Aleksandar Katai, Cristian Martínez, Amando Moreno, David Ousted and Richard Sánchez had their options declined.
Sapong was a productive addition for the Fire with a team-leading 13 goals. The 30-year-old came to the Fire in February in a trade for allocation money. He even showed some versatility playing out wide on occasion with Nemanja Nikolic playing up top.
Edwards’ return is a bit of a surprise. The 24-year-old Canadian only made four appearances last season and none since June 1. He appeared to be in coach Veljko Paunovic’s doghouse, but with Paunovic out perhaps Edwards can get a fresh start under the new coach.
Most of the departures were rarely used depth players with a few notable exceptions.
Goalkeeper David Ousted began the season as the starting goalkeeper, but lost the job to Kenneth Kronholm in the middle of May. Ousted made one appearance after that.
Gaitán was going to be a designated player next season if the Fire picked up his option. He finished with four goals and a team-high 12 assists in 27 appearances.
Katai was a DP this past season and tallied six goals and seven assists.
With Gaitán and Katai joining the previous departures of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Nemanja Nikolic and Dax McCarty, five of the six biggest earners from last season’s team have now departed. All five were in the top eight of minutes played for the Fire in 2019 as well.
The Fire now have 16 players under contract. The current roster has no DPs and four internationals on the roster so there’s plenty of flexibility going forward. The question is, can the team replace all the lost talent by the time the season starts?