Roster decisions ahead for 2016 - who's coming back?

Roster decisions ahead for 2016 - who's coming back?
Chicago Fire defender Jeff Larentowicz (20) stands at midfield after a season ending loss against the New York Red Bulls 2 - 1 at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL on Sunday, October 25, 2015 (Sean King for Chicago Fire Confidential)

With the season at an end, players will sit through exit interviews in the coming days and some surely realize it’s the end of the line in Chicago after a disastrous year. Nelson Rodriguez and Brian Bliss will have a variety of factors to consider when looking at who stays and who departs heading into the winter. As with all teams, performance, budget, and contract options weigh heavily on those decisions.

Unlike last season when Frank Yallop departed for a scouting trip almost immediately after player interviews were conducted, the Fire find themselves with plenty of decisions to make on top of the questions on the pitch. Whether or not Bliss stays on as Technical Director or Coach will obviously play a big part in any new acquisitions. If Bliss isn’t the choice behind the bench, it would be behoove Rodriguez to get someone in place as soon as possible to begin working on personnel review. He says that ideally he'd like to have someone in place by Thanksgiving, which would seem to rule out Miguel Herrera. The former Mexico and Club America coach is looking to make a decision on his next team some time in mid-late December after weighing offers from Liga MX.

As clubs begin to release names of players whose options have been declined over the next month leading up to the Re-Entry Draft in December, the Fire can take stock of who may be able to help considering they will be at the top of the pecking order with no expansion teams automatically given first crack. Chicago can undoubtedly use help defensively and decisions made on contract options and expired deals will certainly play a part considering the budget space that can be made available by releasing some key veterans.

Here is a look at each player on the roster’s status at the conclusion of 2015.

Goalkeepers

Sean Johnson – Signed a multi-year extension in January of 2014 as his original MLS deal was set to expire. The Fire still have the 26 year old ‘keeper under contract, so a transfer fee would still be required from any interested foreign suitors.

Jon Busch – Signed on as the back-up to fill in for Sean Johnson while he was presumably away on National Team duty. The Fire have an option on Busch’s deal for 2016. He's indicated that he wants to continue playing and retire with Chicago.

Alec Kann – The third year ‘keeper has spent some time on loan over the last two seasons and could stick around in the same capacity next season.

Defenders

Kingley Bryce – The Fire’s second round 2015 Superdraft pick spent some time on the back line in camp but played predominantly in midfield while on loan at Saint Louis FC. Most players in his position are on non-guaranteed or semi-guaranteed deals.

Greg Cochrane – In the third year of his original MLS deal, which is almost certainly not fully guaranteed.

Daneil Cyrus – Signed to a short term loan with an option for 2016 during the July transfer window.

Patrick Doody – The Homegrown defender spent time during his rookie season on loan with Saint Louis FC and impressed at left back while showing signs that he can contribute when given the chance with the first team.

Adailton – Signed this past winter when other centerback options fell through. Showed that he can be serviceable at best but he may be too slow to be consistently effective in MLS. The Fire can’t bring him back at the $244,500.00 guaranteed compensation he made this season but they do have an option for 2016. He wants to stay and Bliss has indicated that bringing him back at a new number is possible.

Eric Gehrig – Signed a new deal this past winter. Can be a valuable member as a squad player capable of playing multiple positions. One of the local players on the team that understands the history of the club.

Ty Harden – Acquired from San Jose in exchange for Quincy Amarikwa. Out of contract and oft injured seems to add up to a short stint in Chicago.

Joevin Jones – His second half was nowhere as bright as his start to the season but he’s inexpensive, under contract, young, and talented. May be a better midfielder than defender however.

Jeff Larentowicz – The Fire’s captain over the last several seasons is still working from a contract he signed with Colorado in 2012. The Fire have an option on 2016. Larentowicz is now 32 years old and at $271,000.00 guaranteed in 2015, they will need to make a difficult decision on his status for next year. Eligible for free agency under new CBA agreement if he isn't renewed.

Lovel Palmer – If the previous technical staff was still intact, it wouldn’t have been a stretch to assume that Palmer would not return in 2016. The Fire signed him to a new deal following the 2014 season and until they find another right back, he’s probably still the best option there. Could return next season but Rodriguez must decide if his $125,500.00 guaranteed number this year is worth the same in '16.

Midfielders

David Accam – The Fire paid over $3 million in a transfer fee for Accam so it’s likely that he returns unless someone overseas is willing to pony up enough to recoup that. He’s under contract through 2017 and holds a green card, thereby freeing up an international roster spot.

Razvan Cocis  - Signed during the summer window in 2014, Cocis has shown some value but the Fire need an upgrade in central midfield. He’s 32 and pulled down $222,267.66 as a role player. After picking up his option last winter, it’s likely the Fire have another this year.

Collin Fernandez – Another homegrown player with some promise. In the first year of his HGP deal.

Patrick Nyarko – Signed to a new contract last November, as he and the club were working towards a new deal before the injury that ended his 2014 season and shortened his 2015 campaign. He’ll be 30 when next season starts and he takes a beating but he’s shown that he’s still capable of contributing at a high level. Also a valuable presence in the locker room although he's on a relatively big number at $215,750.00.

Matt Polster – Probably would have been in line for serious ROTY consideration if not for Cyle Larin’s tremendous goal output. A sure bet to return in 2016 if there is one.

Chris Ritter – Finished the second year of his deal as a Homegrown Player. Considerably less time in 2015 due to the emergence of Polster. If the Fire ever operate their own USL side, this would be a good way to get him minutes.

Harry Shipp – Flashes of brilliance over the first two seasons of his professional career have been tempered a bit by disappointing second halves after big starts. If the Fire play him centrally rather than outside, where he has been for the majority of his time so far, he may flourish but he may also not be the superstar some believe he can be. Definitely a valuable asset either way. Potential to develop into a leader if he can find consistency.

Michael Stephens – Signed from Stabaek last December. Could be another valuable and versatile squad player for 2016.

Matt Watson – Veteran midfielder is out of contract. Seemed to be a favorite of Yallop’s staff. Can help MLS squads as a role player.

Forwards

Kennedy Igboananike – The Fire paid a much smaller transfer fee for Igboananike than they did with Accam, as he was entering the last year of his contract with AIK last winter, which is why he was bought down with TAM in order to free up a DP spot. The emergence of Gilberto would seem to indicate that the team will be looking to move him this winter since the use of more allocation money will be required to keep him from taking a DP spot next season but he has a guaranteed deal for 2016.

Jason Johnson – Acquired from Houston in exchange for Alex, partially to clear some cap space for 2016. Will be going into the fourth year of his MLS Generation Adidas rookie deal.

Mike Magee – The extension that renegotiated Magee’s deal to near DP numbers (budget-wise) expires following this season. Injuries have limited him and his unhappiness with the handling of his problems by the medical staff make it even more unlikely that he returns in 2016. If he does return it will need to be at a greatly reduced number. There is every indication that he won’t accept a lower offer from the club. The fact that he has already acknowledged that the deal will expire speaks volumes. Word is he does not want his option picked up even at the current number. Magee is headed for MLS free agency as a player over 28 years old with at least 8 years experience in the league.

Gilberto – The newest Designated Player has shown promise when he’s been fit. His initial MLS contract expires at the end of the 2016 season. He would seem to be a player that can be part of a good core.

Following the debacle that was 2014, Yallop was able to turn over a good portion of the roster with the cap/budget space that was cleared up by cutting ties with the contracts of Juan Luis Anangono, Patrick Ianni, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Gonzalo Segares, and Bakary Soumare. Room was made to bring in three designated players and there will be some room again this year thanks to expiring contracts and allocation money from trades (Drogba/Maloney) and the dubious distinction of finishing dead last. A decision needs to be made on Igboananike and how to navigate around his guaranteed deal if the Fire are to improve defensively and still go after someone like Carlos Vela, who ESPNFC indicates is interested in playing in Chicago.

Roughly half of the players on this year's roster have options for 2016. The Fire can't afford the lost seasons to keep piling up.

Filed under: 2015 Regular Season

Tags: Chicago Fire

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  • We need to blow this whole thing up. Everything. None of the back four should be starting next year. That includes Jones. He is not a LB and he needs to be further up the field. I think Big Red needs to be a leader like Logan was at the end of his career. A locker room only guy. He needs to come back at half of that salary or not at all. I think we should give Polster the armband and have him lead our club for the next 10 years. Only Shipp (in the middle), Polster, Accam, and Johnson should be guaranteed starters for next year. We need at least 1 RB, 1 LB, 2-3 CBs, CM, RW, ST as starting caliber players if we want to compete. Bliss saying that we need a "few" signings is false. You cant turn a team from a 20 loss season to a playoff team in one off season with a "few" signings. A few signings means that the team is close to competing at a high level. This team is 7 points behind 19th place. For that comment alone he should see the door. With all the money we got from Drogba/Maloney and possibly losing Magee, Cocis, Big Red, and Iggy, we should be able to make serious moves in this league. Anything less than a top 8 finish next year is unacceptable.

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    Not saying it will happen in this case but DC United went from 3-24-7 in 2013 to the top of the East in 2014.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    How many significant moves did they make?

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    I don't feel Polster has reached the point where he could or should wear the armband. After a few more years of seasoning, he'll definitely be a presence on the field and in the locker room.

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    Polster is a second year kid. He had a great year, probably ROTY were it not for Larin, but still a kid. If anyone, SJ would probably get the armband next year, assuming Larentowicz leaves.

  • In reply to Jeff Krause:

    I think if you plan on SJ ending up in Europe this is the off-season to make it happen. But of course, need a decent offer in the first place.

  • In reply to KChance:

    Agreed, although I'm in the camp that thinks his window of opportunity there is probably passed, especially since it seems he's completely fallen off the USMNT radar.

  • Guys. When the first statement out of our new gm's mouth was the amount of respect he had for Hauptman I almost drove off the road. Hasn't he checked the record of the fire under the ownership? Hauptman to me is like bill Wirtz was to the Hawks. Hopefully the new guy lets bliss go and he establushes his own group of guys to run the team.

  • So here's a thought, Mike Magee still plays soccer in Chicago in 2016 but for the Sting.

  • In reply to penapirata:

    There won't be an NASL team playing in Chicago in 2016. That's too quick of a turn around.

    Magee will be in MLS somewhere next year.

  • The choice of coach will speak volumes, the tone and verbiage (the right coach) of his press conference does not fill me with confidence.

    This is where we see if Haultman has turned the corner and truly wants to compete for the title. If Bliss or another underwhelming candidate gets the job we will know it it business as usual.

  • Mike Petke reportedly interviewed w/ the club last week. He's on the shortlist of candidates.

    http://www.metro.us/new-york/mike-petke-former-red-bulls-coach-interviews-for-chicago-fire-hc-job/zsJojA---H5B9MGDoC6XdA/

  • In reply to Jeff Krause:

    I would approve this

  • In reply to Jeff Krause:

    I'm okay with that. Would have rather had Klopp though.

  • The only players I would guarantee keeping for next year are Gilberto, Polster and Accam. The rest I would be open to trades or flat out releasing. Magee was fun to watch 2 years ago. I won't miss his complaining to the ref. Everyone who played CB this year needs to rethink their career choices. They were an unfettered disaster. If you watch Polster from the first few games to how he played toward the end, he regressed because he stopped trying to turn and go forward. The kid has a cannon of a shot but clearly was told not to shoot. Why? He has to have a new coach that understands midfield play.

    Change of subject: I truly believe the Fire needs a coach that can teach/develop younger players. Our US based players are usually several years behind their European or South American counterparts because US players stay in high school and head off to college while the Europeans and South Americans sign professional contacts as soon as they legally (or illegally i.e. Messi) can. I would not change our system because I think players in Europe and South America are brutally taken advantage of and often left without options once they fail to progress to first team play. If the Fire and MLS in general can somehow keep the kids in school but step up the academy play to include college level kids, the feeder system that the academy was supposed to be might emerge. I do not think that MLS can emerge or improve without huge investments in player development and US culture makes player development include education as a component.

  • Does anyone know the story behind why Petke was released by RBNY? Seemed to have been doing a good job. Were there behind-the-scenes issues? Did he headbutt the RBNY version of Bakary Soumare (Rafa Marquez, I guess)

  • In reply to DDT5583:

    I've heard players weren't enthralled with his tactical acumen. Still learning how to be a head coach.
    He wouldn't be my first choice but he would greatly improve the coaching wardrobe on the sideline.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Heart is great, but if that's the only consideration, just bring back Klopas. (Don't.)

    A lack of tactical acumen does not inspire confidence in me, and it leads to DCU performances. No thanks.

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    Petke would be a better option than the last 3 coaches but I would still rather see a bigger name if we really expect any major turnaround. Kreis will most likely make the jump to seattle but Chicago should at least throw a big sum at him and see if they can make him think twice. Same goes for Bob Bradley, it would take a small miracle to lure him away from europe but why not throw a few million his way and see if he is tempted. The idea of taking a last place team into the top of the table has to be appealing to him. My concern with Petke is that I remember him having a few run-ins with his players...Chicgao's biggest need is a coach that preaches unity and support and cohesion. There was constant yelling and finger pointing on the team this year which only sent confidence lower.

  • fb_avatar

    Players to keep regardless of their situation: Johnson, Jovin Jones, Polster, Accam (but seriously, pass the ball once in a while), and Gilberto.
    Others that I would still like to see next season: Gehrig (best defender not including JJ this season, and the cheapest as well), Shipp, Nyarko, Stephens, Cyrus (as a CB, not a RB), Cosis (at a reduced cost), maybe Watson (value squad player), Buschy
    as far as the rest of the back line I honestly see no value in Larentowicz even if he signed a new contract for $100k. He was one of the poorer defenders this season and seeing your captain consistently yelling at others when he was just as, if not more culpable, pissed me off. I was never a fan of him at CDM either. Palmer is just atrocious. I dont even have to look up the stat to know he had the most own goals in the league and that is surprising since he never tracked back. Adailton was ok but is up there in age and like Larentowicz, for that salary, you should be able to find a dynamite CB.
    Other than that, I think Igbo got the raw end of the deal since he was played as a target forward and they would lob the ball up to him. when he was played a ball he could run onto, he was dangerous. That and he set up Accam a lot and Accam never reciprocated. That being said, I would rather they open up the DP slot for an improvement..

  • Magee is staying PC and saying all the right things.

    http://www.mlssoccer.com/post/2015/10/24/mike-magee-hopes-2015-not-his-last-season-chicago-fire-was-first-soccer-team-i-loved

    If Nelson Rodriguez pulls a Jedi mind trick and convinces him to stay for less money it will be quite an accomplishment.

  • Kreis to Seattle and Sigi to Chicago. Petke would be a very poor choice indeed, quite in line with the last 5 years of decision making.

  • In reply to Celt:

    Kreis goes to seattle. The thought nauseates me.

  • In reply to BrianC.:

    It's almost enough to make me root for the green devils. If they lose the final will they keep Sigi and leave Kreis available. Or even better, could we get Kreis regardless? Why does it have to be a done deal that if Seattle wants him, that's where he goes?

  • My picks for Wed/Thur
    dc-ne ne
    sea-la sea
    mtl-tor mtl
    por-kc kc

  • Playoff picks

    New England over DC United
    Los Angeles over Seattle
    Montreal over Toronto FC
    Portland over Sporting KC

  • I watched Nelson Rodriguez's press conference. I have a really good feeling. Truly impressive person.

  • In reply to Krasov:

    I didn't have a good feeling. Time will tell.

  • In reply to penapirata:

    Guys when I heard the news conference by Nelson R I heard two things: that we should respect old Andy h and a whole lot of blah blah sort of sounding like a Chicago politician. Basically what we have in Nelson is someone whose total achievement as director of the talent of a team is last place in the league. Why can't chicago hire the talent level of Seatle. Why does the team have to hire unproven guys to hopefully perform well in the future? This hire is like many dp signings that the team has made under old andy.

  • Picks today

    DC and NYRB draw
    Portland over Vancouver
    Montreal over Columbus
    FC Dallas over Seattle

  • Any new out there in Fire land?

  • I was excited when Rodriguez was hired because I assumed it was league intervention. After hearing him speak in such detail about how wonderful Andrew is and give general and vague descriptions on plans to correct things, I realized he's just another clueless idiot here to kiss Andrews butt.

  • In reply to john:

    I fully appreciate how you feel John and after all the misery I even fear you may be right. But I wouldn't put any stock in the significance of Rodriguez's butt kissing episode as an indicator. I think it's entirely predictable that he would kiss butt even if he was here on a League intervention because the league has their own PR interests and want to put a good face on it. If they can possibly avoid it, it's not in their interest to let it look like they let things get out of hand here and then had to intervene.

  • I'm still checking every once in a while for some good news... no good news yet.

  • I understand why some people might be frustrated with Rodriguez praising AH, but I don't understand why anyone should be surprised. Even if the league has some hand in this, it's clearly not a Chivas-level intervention. Chivas was averaging, what, 6,000 fans per home game? As bad as Chicago is on the field, off the field I have to admit that some progress is being made, like with the northside soccer facility, the style and variety of offerings in the team store, and the pub-to-pitch bus program (they didn't start it, but they were smart enough to realize it's a good initiative for building goodwill and getting younger city-based fans out to TP for games).

    Not only that, but everyone in the Fire organization always thanks AH when they come and they leave. Listen back to the interviews over the past two years, especially to Maloney. Yes, all of our DPs from last year said that FY was the key, but it's obviously just party-line to praise AH.

    Also, last time I checked, very few career experts recommend attacking your new employer when you first come on the job, regardless of the industry you're in.

    It's just hot air. I'll wait to see what Rodriguez does - and what he doesn't do - before I judge him.

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