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Chicago Fire’s on-field results don’t match high salaries

Bastian Schweinsteiger saw pay decreases from 2018, making $5.6 million this season after $6.1 million a year ago.

May 8, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger (31) takes the field before the game against the New England Revolution at SeatGeek Stadium. (Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports)

The MLS Players Association’s biannual salary drop had interesting timing for the Chicago Fire.

The Fire got dumped out of the U.S. Open Cup by a USL side on Tuesday. Seeing the salary information a day later puts further weight on the team’s lack of success so far in 2019.

The Fire rank third in the league in overall compensation at $16.9 million and have been among the top teams in that category since 2017 when Bastian Schweinsteiger joined the team. However, the Fire are currently 17th in the league standings, outside a playoff spot and out of the U.S. Open Cup after one match.

Chicago is spending money on players, but the results are not matching. Of the teams in the top 10 in MLS payroll, six are currently in playoff spots. The Fire are the highest team on that list to be outside a playoff spot, which doesn’t paint coach Veljko Paunović in a positive light. That said, the Fire are only one point behind Toronto FC for the seventh and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The other three in the top 10 currently below the playoff line are Sporting Kansas City (fifth), the Portland Timbers (ninth) and Orlando City SC (10th). Portland has a built-in excuse, for now, that the team has just played one match at home while stadium renovations took place.

Schweinsteiger and a number of veterans saw pay decreases from 2018. The German comes in at $5.6 million after being listed at $6.1 million last season. That still ranks fifth among active players in MLS. CJ Sapong ($475,000), Johan Kappelhof ($577,833), Dax McCarty ($700,000) and David Ousted ($361,136) also made more in 2018 than they do this season.

Aleksandar Katai saw the biggest increase among returning Fire players. A Designated Player this year, Katai is making just under $1.4 million in total compensation.

Brandt Bronico’s new contract gave him a 50 percent raise to $90,625.

Of the newcomers, Nicolás Gaitán comes in at $1.4 million in base salary, allowing him to count as a targeted allocation money player this year, but his total compensation is nearly $2.2 million. This is why Gaitan would require a DP slot if he returns in 2020.

Defender Marcelo is at $797,500, the fifth-highest number on the team despite being pushed out of the starting lineup since Francisco Calvo ($672,600) joined the team in May.

With five players under contract at goalkeeper, the Fire are paying nearly $810,000 in that position. League veteran David Ousted ($361,136) is 10th highest at guaranteed compensation among goalkeepers. He has been replaced by Kenneth Kronholm ($150,996) in recent games.




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