Chicago Fire FC announced the winners of the club's 2021 season awards on Friday. There was one major surprise, while the rest of the awards were fairly straightforward.
Most Valuable Player: Federico Navarro
This came as quite a surprise to me as Navarro is the newest Chicago Fire player. While the Argentine played extremely well, he hasn't been around all that long having signed from Talleres in August.
Navarro made his first appearance for the Fire on September 11 against Sporting Kansas City. He quickly found himself in the starting lineup a week later on September 19, a 2-0 road loss to CF Montréal.
Overall, the defensive midfielder hit the ground running and did not seem to need an adjustment period to Major League Soccer. He led the team in tackles (27), tackles won (15), and interceptions (25) during his time with the Fire. Navarro finished in the 99th percentile in tackles won and interceptions per 90 among all MLS midfielders in 2021.
Navarro being the team's MVP while playing just one-third of the MLS season shows the inconsistency seen throughout the Chicago Fire squad in 2021. However, Navarro did play well and since he is under contract through at least the 2025 season, we will hopefully continue to see this type of performance for years to come.
Defender of the Year: Boris Sekulić
Boris Sekulić has been one of the most reliable players, let alone defenders, within the club. With the 19 straight starts he made to start the season, Sekulić started 40 straight matches dating back to 2020, the most on the team over the last two seasons.
Overall, Sekulić made 28 appearances (27 starts) in 2021 and led the team in tackles (36) and had the highest tackle success rate (75%) among players who made 10 tackles or more.
Sekulić was also effective in the attacking third. He made the second-most crosses from open play (74) and led the team in successful crosses from open play (29).
The Serbian right-back also contributed two goals and four assists. The four assists were tied for second-most on the team. The 30-year old enters the final year on his contract in 2022.
Golden Boot: Robert Berić & Luka Stojanović
Luka Stojanović and Robert Berić each led the team with eight goals scored. Berić, who led the Fire with 12 goals in 2020, started off slow, scoring just three goals in his first 27 appearances. However, the striker scored five goals in his last seven appearances, bringing his total to eight.
The Fire declined Berić's team option for 2022, making the former designated player a free agent. The Slovenian finished his Fire career with 20 goals, tied for 12th most all-time in club history.
Stojanović was the more consistent of the two golden boot winners. While it was technically his second season with the club, Stojanović only made two appearances in 2020 after season-ending knee surgery.
Stojanović scored in the club's first two matches and, even though he came off the bench most of the time, he scored in three straight matches in August. He also scored one of the best goals of the season against FC Cincinnati:
Similar to Berić, the Fire declined Stojanović's team option in 2022, making him a free agent as Georg Heitz looks to rebuild the club from the ground up.