The halfway point of the MLS season is upon us. 17 matches played, 17 unpredictable matches left to go. Now is as good of a time as any to dish out mid-term grades for each Chicago Fire player. Every grade is completely subjective and certainly open to debate. Feel free to let me know if you agree or disagree with certain grades in the comment section.
Note: Only players making four or more appearances so far this season are being graded.
Sean Johnson: A-
After a miserable start to the season that saw the Fire concede 12 goals in six games, including eight goals in a three-match losing streak, Johnson was dropped to the bench by former head coach Carlos de los Cobos. Johnson would eventually regain his starting position in the US Open Cup penalty-shootout win over San Jose. Four days later, Johnson was back in goal in MLS action and has been in outstanding form ever since. Heavily responsible for the Fire only conceding twice in the last seven matches.
Jon Conway: C-
He wasn’t terrible when he first stepped in for Johnson starting with a 1-1 draw against Houston on April 23rd, but then the mistakes arrived and ultimately cost the Fire several important results. Conway only managed one clean sheet and was aptly pulled from the starting XI to give Johnson his starting position back.
Jalil Anibaba: B+
Struggled with consistency at the beginning of the season and his rookie inexperience often showed. Has grown in stature as the season has progressed and looks like a mainstay in this Fire team.
Bratislav Ristic: B-
Deputized well when called upon – mainly at right back – and has struggled to break into the starting XI. Looks more like a squad player than a starter but has done enough to give us reason to believe he’ll have an important role to play in the second half of the season.
Cory Gibbs: A-
Unlucky to suffer an injury early in the season just as he had found a good run of form, but has been at the heart of everything positive in the Fire backline ever since. Brings vital experience and has formed a blossoming partnership with Cuesta.
Yamith Cuesta: A
Missed the beginning of the season as he was a late acquisition from Chivas USA, but has quickly settled and been as solid as a rock in the Fire’s much improved defense. Has demonstrated all the attributes of a great center-back.
Dasan Robinson: C-
Severely struggled to earn a place in the starting XI so far this season and looks to be facing an uphill task to break into the team. Dropped after a disappointing performance against Seattle. His versatility and ability to play on the right or in the middle of defense could bode well for him and the Fire as the season drags on, however.
Josip Mikulic: B-
A promising start to the campaign was sadly derailed by injury, but the Croatian looks set to re-enter the fray in the next few weeks. He’ll hope to replicate his early season form once he returns, although earning his spot back might prove difficult.
Gonzalo Segares: A
One of the most consistent players for the Fire this season, Segares has been in fine form at left-back. Provides a sense of safety on the left side and has demonstrated his leadership more than once by taking the captaincy in Pause’s absence.
Mike Videira: C+
Heavily favored by CLDC at the beginning of the season but was criticized for being too defensively minded (mainly CLDC’s fault for pairing him with Pause). Started five games at the start of the season and was unlucky to suffer an injury that has ruled him out ever since. Will have a difficult job on his hands when it comes to forcing himself back into the starting XI.
Logan Pause: B
As a Fire veteran and current captain it’s hard to criticize Pause, but it wouldn’t hurt to see him improve areas of his game. He’s played admirably defensively, but when it comes to controlling matches and marshalling the midfield, he’s been disappointing. As for his attacking ability, it’s never been his strong point. Obviously still a vital player for the club and will have a big role to play in helping steer the Fire up the table.
Daniel Paladini: B+
Patiently waited for playing time at the beginning of the season but has certainly grasped every opportunity he’s been given ever since. Links up well with the forwards and has proven himself to be a quality passer. Plenty more to come from him this season.
Baggio Husidic: B-
Also made to wait for first-team opportunities by CLDC, but has provided much needed attacking impetus when he’s played. Still has areas of his games that could use honing, but he will certainly improve as the season progresses.
Corben Bone: C+
Has already made more appearances than he did the entire season last year and has shown improvement with every passing game. Still young and much to learn, but has been a good asset already.
Patrick Nyarko: B+
Hasn’t shown the same form that saw him notch 10 assists last season, but has been a key component in the Fire attack. Performance against Columbus was his best so far. Once he finds consistency, expect plenty more quality performances out of him.
Marco Pappa: A
Went away for several weeks with Guatemala and still manages to be the Fire’s best player this first half of the season. Stepped up with several important goals and proven over and over again why he’s widely regarded as the Fire’s best player.
Dominic Oduro: A
What a trade. And what a contribution so far. Like Pappa, Oduro has stepped up with several important goals this season and has quickly established himself as a starter with top performances both on the right wing and at center-forward. Has also left plenty of left-backs in his dust with his blistering pace.
Diego Chaves: A-
After his incredible start to the season which included three goals in three games, Chaves has suffered from a reported lack of fitness after missing pre-season. Despite this, he’s been one of the Fire’s best performers so far and already proven to be a great signing.
Christian Nazarit: C+
Another late acquisition to the squad this season, Nazarit has taken time to settle in the MLS – which can be expected for any 20-year-old striker. Opened his account with a memorable injury-time winner in Columbus and has shown glimpses of being a talented forward for this club.
Orr Barouch: B
Incredibly featured in 15 matches before being handed his first start against RSL. Has only scored one goal so far, but has come close on numerous occasions. Despite the lack of goals and starts, it’s been an impressive first season with the club so far.
Again, feel free to let me know your thoughts.