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Hindsight’s 20-20, especially if you’re a Chicago Fire fan. The club has a rich tradition of letting players go, who go on to have success elsewhere. We looked at six recent departures, to see if the Fire–or the player–ended up ahead in the end:
The Fire let Sapong walk after the 2020 season, replacing him with a much younger Chinonso Offor. Last season, Sapong had 12 goals and five assists for Nashville SC, and he’s followed that up with five goals and three assists already this year.
CJ was the Fire’s leading scorer in 2019, and the only reason his production dropped in 2020 was extremely understandable: his daughter was fighting for her life after being born very premature, and Sapong was focused on his family, rightfully so.
CJ’s only making $550,000 this season for that production, which feels like a steal. Should the Fire have let him go? Absolutely not.
Verdict? CJ wins, the Fire lose.
Before his recent injury, Mihailovic was playing so well in Montreal he was getting shouts as an MLS MVP candidate. Look at these numbers: seven goals, four assists this season, and that’s after four goals and a league leading 16 assists last season.
On paper, letting Djordje go seems insane, but there was a lot going on behind the scenes. The Fire were tired of his attitude, and on Djordje’s end there was a ton of distrust toward the club. It was one of those situations that could–and should–have been handled with more open communication, but that didn’t happen. It’s an absolute shame the homegrown kid from Lemont isn’t still playing here before eventually going to Europe.
I don’t think you can argue the Fire have yet benefitted from his departure, with much of the money they received essentially going to pay Kacper Przybylko, but it sure seems like Djordje needed this change of scenery to flourish.
Verdict? Djordje wins, the Fire lose.
Don’t get me started. The fan favorite left the Fire after the 2016 season, with critics arguing at the time he wasn’t good enough with his feet. Since then the Fire have had a cavalcade of goalkeepers–some decent (Bobby Shuttleworth), many not so much (take your pick).
Gaga Slonina might have eventually bumped Johnson from the starting role, but Gaga was 12 when Johnson left. The Fire should have kept Johnson several years longer. Since leaving, he’s won an MLS Cup for NYCFC, and forced himself into the conversation to appear on the USMNT roster for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Verdict? Johnson wins, the Fire lose.
The 2020 and 2021 Chicago Fire were screaming out for a strong veteran leader. The team was plagued at times with cliques and in-fighting, with captain Francisco Calvo and manager Raphael Wicky unable to help. McCarty’s voice certainly would have improved things.
McCarty (and Sapong) have Nashville SC in the playoff picture for the third straight season–this year in the Western Conference.
Verdict? McCarty wins, the Fire lose.
Frankowski finished the 2021-22 Ligue 1 season with six goals, good enough to say he finished level with Lionel Messi. Frankie struggled to finish chances his last couple seasons in Chicago, but has flourished in France, earning regular call ups to the Polish National Team. This is a case where the Fire made a player-focused decision to let him go. He might have helped in the short term, but Georg Heitz and Co. made an important statement, showing the Fire are a place where young players can come and eventually earn a move to Europe.
Jairo Torres made it a point to say as much in his introductory news conference. Torres said he’s hoping to play well enough to eventually move on as well, which was refreshing. Hopefully the Fire will let Slonina move as well if Real Madrid makes the right offer. The Fire can, and should be a springboard for young talent to move to bigger leagues. They got that right with Frankie.
Verdict? Everyone wins.
Calvo landed with the San Jose Earthquakes, where he’s again one of the best in the league in interceptions, and his defense is again one of the poorest in the league. Same story, new club. This was a no-brainer.
Verdict? Fire win.
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