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Chicago Fire take first steps of offseason, pick up options on 6 players

Jul 21, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Fire midfielder Brandt Bronico (13) during the first half at Bridgeview Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The first major steps of the Chicago Fire’s offseason took place Monday with the team announcing the contract option decisions on a number of players.

The Fire picked up six players’ options. Brandt Bronico, Diego Campos, Stefan Cleveland, Jorge Corrales, Raheem Edwards and Nico Hasler all got picked up for 2019. On Sunday, the Fire announced that Elliot Collier had his option picked up as well. Of the seven players the Fire retained, 27-year-old Hasler is the only one above the age of 25.

Meanwhile, seven players had their options declined, including Michael de Leeuw. The team’s statement said negotiations for a new deal are ongoing with the Dutch forward. Jonathan Campbell, Drew Conner, Daniel Johnson, Patrick McLain, Yura Movsisyan and Luis Solignac had their options declined.

The Fire now have 15 players under contract.

Key decisions remain, namely Bastian Schweinsteiger’s status is still unknown. Matt Polster is out of contract and is reportedly trying to find a team in Europe. Center back Johan Kappelhof, who has been a staple in the team since arriving before the 2016 season, is also out of contract. The Fire said negotiations are ongoing with all three players.

The Fire will need to rework the back line with Kappelhof and Polster potentially leaving and left back Brandon Vincent retiring at the end of the season. In addition, Campbell made 57 MLS appearances in his first two seasons, but made just 15 (11 starts) last season.

There isn’t much MLS experience at defender currently under contract. Corrales made 17 starts in 2018 at left back, but the other two defenders under contract are Grant Lillard, who made eight appearances in his rookie season, and Nicolas Del Grecco, who didn’t play with the Fire after joining in the middle of the season.

The other moderate surprise is McLain having his option declined. McLain appeared to be the first choice keeper when healthy, but did struggle with a hamstring injury in the second half of the season. The Fire will likely be in the market for an experienced goalkeeper after Richard Sanchez struggled in 2018.

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