The Fire's 2015 season ended last week but the work is just starting for new GM Nelson Rodriguez. The first order of business is obviously deciding on who will be the next head coach. Rodriguez has indicated that he'd ideally like to have someone in place before Thanksgiving and that two of the characteristics he was looking for included familiarity with MLS and a connection to youth development.
That would seem to indicate that at least two of the known candidates interviewed so far fit the bill. US U-20 coach Tab Ramos and current Fire Academy Director Larry Sunderland seemingly fall into those categories, although Ramos hasn't worked directly on the MLS side after his playing days ended. Others including Mike Petke, Brian Bliss, and Chris Armas are also viable with varying levels of experience in coaching on the professional and youth levels. Rodriguez apparently has locked in an extensive travel schedule as the search continues this week.
Former US international Brad Friedel has expressed interest but his lack of coaching experience would seem to make him a long shot. Another US goalkeeper with little coaching background is on the list, and he also happens to be employed in media currently. Former MetroStars, Kansas City Wizards, and Red Bulls star Tony Meola is a candidate. He now hosts a radio show on SiriusXM.
One name that should be crossed off the list is Miguel Herrera, who used a bit of savvy to publicly express interest in just about any coaching vacancy in the world if the offer was right. 'El Piojo' said he wouldn't turn down interest from Chicago last month and that set off a mini frenzy among fans and some media outlets. The move was nothing more than a clever way to drive up interest from teams in Mexico as potential suitors. It also seems Rodriguez did some exploratory work as a result of those comments but Herrera now has officially been announced as the manager for Tijuana in Liga MX next season.
Talk of a move for Jason Kreis is sure to continue now that New York City FC has parted ways with him and his coaching staff. According to sources, Kreis is currently not on the Fire's list of potential interviewees. He is apparently headed to Toronto FC, where former RSL President Bill Manning is now in charge. It's a good bet that CJ Brown will follow him there.
This is the start of Rodriguez's third official week on the job and indications are that he's still interviewing candidates and cultivating the list. It would be very surprising if the eventual coach didn't have MLS experience at some level.
More than one source feels that Ramos is in the lead at moment but nothing has been decided yet.
Following his introduction before the last home game, Rodriguez shared some thoughts on his time at Chivas USA and how it prepared him for what he called his dream job in Chicago and an opportunity to take over an MLS team with an actual future. Some have compared his role at Chivas and his arrival in Chicago to that of Pulp Fiction's clean up man Winston Wolf. His last MLS job wasn't an easy one.
"It was far tougher than I imagined when I took it and as I got into it," Rodriguez told Fire Confidential. "What I am proud of is that I think we closed that chapter in Major League Soccer with dignity. What I'm proud of is the players and the technical staff of that group competed all the time and managed to block out the distractions and the obvious questions of - 'Do I have a job', to continue to do well. The fact that we finished in a higher place in the standings is a credit to all of those people. If they felt that I supported that in any way, then I'm flattered. What Chivas gave me was a chance to pressure test some of my management and leadership philosophies. I was very involved in players decisions there and I tried to be very supportive of the head coach, understanding that he was under incredible, difficult circumstances with a one year contract."
Others have noted the Fire's place in the standings and made the assumption that Rodriguez may have been placed in Chicago by the league to oversee the operation and clean up the mess in the back seat, so to speak. That is apparently not the case. Rodriguez says the deal came together fairy quickly once serious discussions began.
"I think this opportunity came up, at least from my perspective, rather innocently and then it went very quickly. Andrew and I, in the past have spoken, especially when I was at the league office and he just had a couple of questions for me. I answered those questions. They begat bigger conversations and all of a sudden it got pretty involved and pretty detailed and he said - 'Would you be interested?" At that point I needed to talk to US Soccer and he needed to talk to US Soccer. Once they said it was okay it moved very quickly at that point. I shared my philosophy and a skeleton of my plan and he obviously liked it and bought into it and we moved forward."
As for being the soccer version of Winston Wolf?
"I hope that time will tell that I was like Mr. Wolf. We'll see what history says," he said with a grin.
Former Fire and Chivas USA forward Matt Fondy has been named Most Valuable Player of the 2015 USL season. Fondy scored 22 goals during the regular season for Louisville City FC.
Take that as you will regarding the level of play in USL.
S8 Player of the year
David Accam has not only won the voting for the team's MVP but he's been named as the Supporter's choice for Player of the Year. The award will be presented during the ISA's board meeting on November 4 at The Atlantic Bar and Grill at 7PM.
Update 11/3: Manning told Toronto press today that he spoke to Kreis last night and considered bringing him in but is sticking with coach Greg Vanney for the time being. That opens up more speculation on Kreis' future destination and that of his coaching staff. Should Kreis decide to wait on the TFC job, it could add CJ Brown's name to the Fire's list of potential candidates.