Chicago Fire trade homegrown midfielder Djordje Mihailovic to the Montreal Impact in an $800K deal

Jeremy Mikula, Chicago Tribune

Djordje Mihailovic came out of the Chicago Fire’s youth academy in 2017 as one of the team’s most promising homegrown players.

But after four seasons with the Fire, the midfielder’s time with the club has come to an end.

A source confirmed Wednesday that the Fire have traded Mihailovic to the Montreal Impact for $800,000 in general allocation money. The Fire could land an additional $200,000 in GAM if Mihailovic reaches certain performance metrics with the Impact, and the Fire would earn 10% of any future transfer fee should Montreal sell the Lemont native. The Athletic first reported the move.

Mihailovic, 22, was one of the Fire’s most productive players in an otherwise underwhelming 2020 season with two goals and a team-leading seven assists, tied for second in Major League Soccer behind only league MVP Alejandro Pozuelo. He finished his Fire career with seven goals and 15 assists in 73 matches (45 starts).

Mihailovic became the ninth homegrown player in Fire history in January 2017 and became a regular halfway through his rookie season.

His first season ended on a sour note for both him and the Fire: Mihailovic ruptured his right ACL 65 minutes into a 4-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls at Toyota Park in the first round of the playoffs. That injury forced him to miss 25 matches in 2018, and he was in and out of the starting lineup in 2019 — Veljko Paunovic’s last season with the Fire — despite earning U.S. men’s national team call-ups.

“He wasn’t really always a full starter but he was a national team player,” Fire coach Raphael Wicky told the Tribune in March. “Normally if you’re not a national team player, you’re a full starter and you become a national team player (later).”

Mihailovic’s frustration in 2019 boiled over after a loss to lower-division team Saint Louis FC in the U.S. Open Cup. He directed profanity at a Fire fan during a shouting match and apologized the next day on social media.

After training with German team 1 FC Nurnberg during the offseason, Mihailovic started 2020 season brightly — two assists in two starts — before COVID-19 shut down MLS for months.

At the MLS Is Back Tournament outside Orlando, Fla., however, Mihailovic played just 40 minutes and didn’t feature at all in the decisive third game, a 2-0 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps. At the time, Wicky said it was for “technical, tactical reasons” and declined to go into detail, saying he needed to talk about that “internally” with Mihailovic.

By the time MLS play resumed in August, Wicky said Mihailovic responded well.

“We both said, ‘Let’s restart, let’s forget about that,’ " Wicky said. “I’m not a person if you do something or something happened, I will not hold that against you the whole time. For me it was important to see a reaction. And I see that. I see that in training, and that’s a positive because like I always say, Djordje is a good player. He can become an important player for this club. He wants to be an important player for this club and that’s why I asked for a reaction and he gave me that.”

Mihailovic started 14 of 20 games last season but gave a perhaps telling quote when he was asked to evaluate his season after coming off the bench Oct. 17 to score a stoppage-time equalizer against Sporting Kansas City at Soldier Field.

“This 2020 season is just, you know, up and down, like every other season,” he said. “There’s highs, there’s lows and that’s all I’ve got to say about that.”