The Chicago Fire confirmed the departure of seven players on Thursday, while another two are now available for free agency.
After a tumultuous 2021 campaign that saw them finish 12th in the Eastern Conference, fail to make the Playoffs again and part ways with head coach Raphael Wicky, the Fire have started early with their off-season rebuild.
Francisco Calvo, Elliot Collier, Kenneth Kronholm, Álvaro Medrán, Nick Slonina, Luka Stojanović, and Robert Berić have all been let go by the Fire. The latter scored 19 goals across the last two seasons combined, but opens up a valuable Designated Player spot, while Medran was on a $1m base salary.
Additionally, defender Johan Kappelhof and goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth are out of contract and available to other clubs on a free transfer. Shuttleworth, of course, lost his place in net to 17-year-old prospect Gabriel Slonina in the final months of the campaign.
“On behalf of the club, I’d like to thank each of these players for their contributions to the Fire,” said Fire sporting director Georg Heitz in an official press release.
"As we enter a very important offseason, we felt that these decisions were necessary as we begin to upgrade the roster. We wish the players who are departing all the best and look forward to providing additional roster updates in the coming weeks.”
Winners of MLS Cup back in 1998 and three-time finalists, the Fire haven't made the Playoffs in any of the last four seasons. In fact, they've only qualified for the post-season twice in the past 12 years.
An overhaul of the playing squad, building around younger pieces such as Slonina and Brian Gutierrez, might just be the step in the right direction the club needs to take. Relying on more established veterans and former stars of European soccer hasn't exactly yielded much success.