Chicago Fire lets go of three homegrown players
They were local kids who grew up dreaming of playing soccer for their hometown Chicago Fire and were among the fortunate few to live that dream.
On Tuesday the Fire announced three of its academy products -- Patrick Doody of Naperville, Joey Calistri of Deerfield and Collin Fernandez of Downers Grove -- were among seven players whose 2018 contract options the club declined.
There was no word on progress on contract negotiations with German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, who is out of contract after one season with the Fire. Schweinsteiger, 33, and his wife, retired tennis star Ana Ivanovic, recently announced they are expecting their first child.
In addition to the three homegrown players, the Fire also declined 2018 contract options on goalkeeper Richard Sanchez, defenders Michael Harrington and Matej Dekovic and midfielder John Goossens.
The Fire also opted not to purchase the contract of veteran midfielder Juninho, who spent the season in Chicago on loan. The roster stands at 20.
Doody, a 25-year-old left back from Neuqua Valley High School, was with the Fire for three seasons after winning a national championship with Indiana University. He was one of the longest-serving Fire players on the 2017 roster. He started seven games last season in place of injured regular Brandon Vincent, recording 4 assists, 3 of them in an Aug. 5 win against New England.
Calistri, a Northwestern graduate, spent two seasons under contract with the Fire but was on loan to the Tulsa Roughnecks of the USL all of 2017. The 24-year-old forward/midfielder played in 14 games with the Fire in 2016, starting two. He had 1 goal and 1 assist in 348 minutes.
Fernandez, 20, also was one of the longest-serving Fire players on the 2017 roster, having been added in 2015 after signing in August 2014. Like Calistri, the Downers Grove North High School graduate spent the entire 2017 season on loan to Tulsa.
Doody's departure probably means the Fire will rely on Jorge Corrales to back up Vincent or will sign Indiana University junior Andrew Gutman, a Hinsdale Central High School graduate, to a homegrown contract. The Fire signed Corrales in September from the Tulsa Roughnecks, then loaned him back to Tulsa for the rest of the season.
The most mystifying decisions involved underperforming Armenian forward David Arshakyan and Uruguayan goalkeeper Jorge Bava. Both had their options picked up.
In 2017, his first full season with the Fire, Arshakyan made 7 regular-season appearances for a grand total of 27 minutes, plus 20 minutes in the Fire's 4-0 playoff loss to the New York Red Bulls when the game was already out of control.
Most discouragingly, the 23-year-old Arshakyan failed to make an impact, managing just 1 shot, and hasn't displayed MLS-level footwork. At a salary of $178,850, according to MLS Players Union figures, the Fire didn't get its money's worth. Nor was he worth the valuable international roster slot.
Bava, 36, played the first eight games of the season, but the Fire played its best when he was replaced in the lineup by Matt Lampson. Bava showed little athleticism during his time in the lineup and lacked the distribution skills coach Veljko Paunovic wants in a goalkeeper.
Bava underwent surgery on his left elbow in August, ending his season. With a salary of $267,133 and an international roster slot, Bava also didn't earn his keep.
Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez called the players Monday and Tuesday to let them know of the club's decision.
Central defender Joao Meira, whose contract expired after the season, tweeted that he would not be back with the team. He said after the season he wanted to be closer to his family in Portugal.