Chicago Fire will return 27 players in 2021, limiting flexibility in roster movement

The Chicago Fire failed to make the 2020 MLS playoffs, but it will move into 2021 with 27 players under contract.

To return 27 players is very high for an MLS team, especially a team that had a losing record, and will restrict its ability to make changes. The Fire finished 11th in the Eastern Conference with a 5-10-8 record.

In the offseason, Chicago brought in Georg Heitz as sporting director and Raphael Wicky as head coach. With that change, 18 new players were signed in 2020.

"One thing that we absolutely will have a focus on is continuity," said Heitz in a media call on Friday, "because it's one thing that we think that [was lacking]."

He admitted signing 18 new players in 2020 was too many.

"We cannot be successful with that," he added, "so we think that we laid the foundation and we would really like to keep most of the players that we have this season. Of course, we will also try to strengthen the squad by signing maybe two, three more players.”

The Fire exercised the contracts of four players on its 2020 roster -- including 22-year-old midfielder Djordje Mihailovic, who has five caps for the USA -- to go along with 23 other players who remain under contract.

Those players whose contracts were guaranteed or became guaranteed for 2021 include 15 of the 18 players signed in 2020: seven players signed in transfer deals, six signed as Homegrown players and two free agents.

The top signing was forward Robert Beric, who finished a close second to Columbus Crew midfielder Lucas Zelarayan in voting for MLS Newcomer of the Year.

The Fire declined the 2021 contract options on midfielder Jeremiah Gutjahr and goalkeeper Connor Sparrow, while midfielder Micheal Azira and forward CJ Sapong are out of contract and eligible for free agency. The Fire remains in discussions with midfielder Brandt Bronico about his future in Chicago.

Chicago Fire 2021 Roster:
Goalkeepers (4): Chris Brady, Kenneth Kronholm, Bobby Shuttleworth, Gabriel Slonina.
Defenders (10): Jonathan Bornstein, Francisco Calvo, Johan Kappelhof, Miguel Navarro, *Wyatt Omsberg, Mauricio Pineda, Andre Reynolds II, Boris Sekulic, *Nicholas Slonina, Carlos Teran.
Midfielders (11): Ignacio Aliseda, Javier Casas Jr., Przemysaw Frankowski, Gaston Gimenez, Brian Gutierrez, Fabian Herbers, Alex Monis, Alvaro Medran, *Djordje Mihailovic, Allan Rodríguez, Luka Stojanovic.
Forwards (2): Robert Beric, *Elliot Collier.
*Option for 2021 exercised.

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