Nelson Rodriguez media roundtable - full audio

With the Fire off to their best start after 12 games since the 2009 season confidence is running high in Bridgeview. General Manager Nelson Rodriguez sat down with local media this afternoon in a roundtable discussion about all aspects of the club and what's ahead. Among the topics reviewed during the hour-long Q&A session:

  • Targeted Allocation Money and how much the Fire have left for shopping in the upcoming window
  • Progress of the Academy system and the Fire Juniors program
  • Potential Homegrown Players
  • Improvement in the scouting department
  • Contract talks and international interest in David Accam
  • The relationship with USL and the Tulsa Roughnecks
  • Progress of updates of loanees Collin Fernandez, Joey Calistri, and Matej Dekovic
  • Frustrated supporters and much more

You can listen to the entire audio of the roundtable over at the Fire Confidential Live Podcast page.

Filed under: 2017 Regular Season

Tags: Chicago Fire


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  • ***WARNING*** Long winded rant about Nelsons rant for being long winded. (Yes I see the irony)

    Nelson talks too much. Hes too focused on how he sounds rather than how clear his message is. Anyone who talks long enough will eventually put their foot in their mouth. He needs to be clear and concise. He needs to be mindful of how he wants the Fire to be portrayed and how HE wants to be portrayed.

    If you want to be seen as a professional than you don't let criticism bother you. If you want the Fire's success on the pitch and your efforts in the off-season to be maximized you put the emphasis on how much things have improved and how the fans have embraced the positive changes. That's the question he was being teed up for.

    Instead he makes mention of a small but LOUD group of wallowers who are hoping the wheels fall off. That's an awful response. That sends a message of discord and makes the average reader/listener ask why and diverts attention back to past failures. Even when Orrin asked if the road win removed some of the stigma about road games he makes it about last year, player mentality and negative fans. That wasn't his question. Orrin was teeing him up for a positive response. A better response would have been that he thinks it's a big step in the right direction and always good to win on the road as well as win 3 in a row.

    His longwinded response and mention of past failures led right into being asked to clarify what he meant by wallowers. He had a chance to redeem himself. Instead he doubles down and plays the victim. He should've said: Well Jeff, wallowers is probably not the best word. What I really meant by that is there are fans who aren't able to trust that this is an entirely different team. I know it's understandable to be skeptical and I hope we can win their confidence, we're conmited to achieving our goal to become a championship club and doing so will silence any skepticism.

    He even made sure to say that these fans aren't just skeptics. He claimed they're rooting for the Fire to fail. That's Iron81 level paranoia. People are spending their money and time in hopes of a repeat of the last 6 years? If so, why were they upset? Wouldn't you be happy the Fire sucked? I was very critical myself but I'm enjoying what I believe to be a very strong team. I'm skeptical about coaching decisions because the problem still exists. I'm skeptical about our GK situation but that's a small part of this team. I'm happy the Fire are doing well and even though I'm not particularly fond of Nelson or at least how he communicates, I'm pretty happy with what he's done this year. if I ran into him I would ask to shake his hand and thank him for doing a good job in the off-season. I don't think he's that knowledgeable but he did the right thing by signing guys that you didn't have to be a genius to know were good.

  • In reply to john:

    I 100% agree with John's thoughts above.

    Nelson came off amateurish and petty by doubling down on his comments about the fan base. If you're being modest and focused on being a finished product, why even mention them? And also, who are they? I've barely seen any negativity about the team during its current streak, so why go there?

    Bask in the glory of a three-game winning streak. Be happy about winning a road game. Talk up the fact that you've got the third-most points in the league -- truly incredible when you consider where we were at just a year ago.

    To go back and bring up an echo chamber of people on BigSoccer or 1-2 folks on Twitter seems so unbecoming of a team that's in third place in a 22-team league.

    Despite the strides that have been made on the field, Nelson's comments lead me to believe that the Fire continue to be a petty organization that expects everyone to jump in lockstep to positive messaging and glorifying Hauptman. That's not going to fly and that's not Chicago sports, something Nelson seems to be enamored of.

    Part of being a fixture in this city's sports community is being able to take criticism. Imagine if executives of the big 5 teams in this town dedicated as much time as the Fire have to a puny, minority of fans, who I might add have been right more than they've been wrong about the management of this team over the years.

    There have been on-field improvements, but the comments here tell me he and this club still have a LONG way to not only get back to the Fire glory years, but also be considered a MAJOR LEAGUE organization in the city's sports landscape.

    Earn your reputation Nelson, don't be a fucking child about it.

  • In reply to seaside:

    I had to listen after reading your comment and John's above. NR is not a nice person. Question (I am paraphrasing): Do you have a preference for European players as opposed to players from South America or Mexico? Answer: "No, we have a preference for good players." That is just a snotty answer. I cannot believe he cares what fans say or think about his decisions or the status of the team. Does he realize how bad the Fire were before he got here? Of course long time fans are negative. Last year, my seats were right behind a group of fans that have been coming for years. They were incredibly negative. Understandably so. How many times did we see the Fire lose in the last 10 minutes because they could not regain possession or clear the ball. Did I rant about these fans, no? I just moved my seats:) Did I complain, no? Why? Because they were loyal fans who earned their right to be negative.

    NR gave a smarty pants answer to an easy question. He is basically the suit and tie version of Lee Elia circa 1983. How did that turn out for Lee? NR, you should stop trying to sound smarter than you are and learn to be humble. Trying to sound like the smartest guy in the room when all you are is the guy answering questions really is annoying. Also, does he really think John Terry is an exemplary person off the field? Ask Wayne Bridge what he thinks of that statement. If that statement does not prove that NR is not the smartest guy in the room nothing does.

  • In reply to john:

    Well said, John.

  • In reply to john:

    I hear your point, but I want to take a step back and look at what we have gotten from NR's leadership so far this year:

    1) Long-winded answers & unpopular push-back against some supporters.

    2) Better players, improved on-field product, 2nd place in the league, & 4 wins in a row.

    For me, I'll put up with the former in exchange for the latter.

  • I'm happy that Rodriguez recognizes the threat that the "wallowers" are to the Fire. After all, they are our number one obstacle to long term success.

    The Fire, like most pro sports have two goals: win titles and grow the club. Both of those goals are intertwined, but not to a great degree. The fans direct influence in performance on the field is limited. Specifically, fans dont have the first clue how to run a team. Holding contempt for decisions made implies that the person criticizing has competent insight when he or she doesn't 99% of the time. The reason Rodriguez sounds like the smartest person in the room is because he is the smartest person in the room when it comes to the Fire, including the room where the roundtable was held. Not due to intelligence, but due to experience and knowledge.

    Supporters not having a proper role in the Club's technical decisions doesn't mean they don't matter, it's just their role is to assist with the Club's other goal, to build the Club. To "let Chicago be known for all time." The frustration Rodriguez and I feel toward the wallowers, who are a subset of enemies of the Fire, is that they have the exact opposite goal, just like the rest of MLS has the goal of denying the Fire titles. They seek to minimize our accomplishments, to turn the Fire into a joke, to drive awau fans, to reduce enthusiasm. They do this in a misguided attempt to force change when they have no god damned idea what that involves or how to properly do it. They get angry because they willfully ignore how good we have it in Bridgeview to wallow in ignorance and nostalgia of how good the Fire was in the past. They also get angry because they no longer have a grossly disproportionate share of the Club's attention like they did under Wilt and our current leadership gives them the little heed they deserve. I express opinions about our direction too, but if NRod ever cut a player because I told him to he'd be nuts.

    The reason he said "Trust the process" is that we have all the elements of success: smart leadership, ample resources, passionate fans and ownership to provide those resources and time to build. The number one long term threat to that process is that the wallowers will succeed in driving away fans to the point that the Club relocates or is sold to a less passionate owner. That is the key challenge for Khosla and the supporters, to resist the descent into anger and build the Club into something great.


  • In reply to iron81:


    A number of points:
    1) You would think politicians (Nelson acts like a politician) would have learned by now that calling people "Deplorables".... I mean "Wallowers" only alienates potential supporters and doesn't bring together the people you should want to bring together.

    2) The response indicates that Nelson believes he has earned some level of trust from people. He hasn't. He needs to recognize that he is working in an organization that completely threw out Tradition and Honor over the last 7 years. To say, look at me, I've won 6 games, you can trust me now is the biggest joke I've ever heard. The teams performance last year didn't give any reason to "trust the process", and where as I am optimistic on the direction of the team and I have faith in the players, it will take more then 1/3rd of a season to prove that the team is not going to regress to the mean of the last 7 seasons. That is something that needs to be earned and fought for every game. It is not something that will be handed out because he wears a snappy suit.

    3) "Holding contempt for decisions made implies that the person criticizing has competent insight when he or she doesn't 99% of the time. " -- This quote right here is probably the most antagonistic, I hate you fans, response you or anyone else could make. Sadly this embodies the attitude many fans have received from the front office. Fans ... I'm sorry "wallowers", judge the team based on the product on the field. This is something that fans see 100% of the time (since 99% of statistics are made up, I can throw out ridiculous numbers too). This ties back up to point number 2, trust. Trust is built over time and a proven history. Nelson doesn't have that, so for now fans will question every move that he makes and they should. The song and dance has been done many times in years past of "Only I (the front office) truly see the picture. And even though you don't see it on the field, we are making progress" . I've sat through to many seasons where I thought the time had turned a corner, only to see it all thrown a way.

    4) to refer to your own fans as "Enemies of the Fire" just goes to show how out of touch you are with reality. As Guillermo has pointed out many times over the last few years, the fan base being upset is much better then the fan base not listening anymore. It means you have an opportunity to win them over still. Negativity continues to exist because it takes time to create new trends, to improve statistics and to prove that the team has truly risen to a new height and isn't going to regress back to the mean. If you want people to stop being skeptical, come back to me next season when we have done something noteworthy. Until then take your antagonistic attitude and go sit back in the corner.

    Me, I'm going to Toyota Park tonight to cheer on my team, because this "Wallower", with his skeptical eye, hopes and expects the best from this team. I will cheer them on in their victories and expect better in their defeats. Because I am a true fan ever since my first Fire game in 1998. My inaugural season foam finger at is waiting for the next MLS Cup and maybe even the Treble. Go Fire!

  • In reply to edubs:

    Oh one other thing. About 10 years ago, I was in Stuttgart, Germany catching a Borussia Dortmund v VFB Stuttgart game. When I got back to my uncles apartment a short walk away, we turned on the news to find out that we barely made it out of the stadium. You see, VFB Stuttgart DECIMATED Borussia Dortmund. They embarrassed them so badly that the Borussia Dortmund fans surrounded the bus and sat down. Fearing a riot, Stuttgart closed all the gates to the stadium so that the crowd around the bus couldn't grow. No one was allowed to leave. The fans already in front of the bus refused to let it leave until the players came out and explained/apologized for their poor level of play. Nelson should consider himself lucky that he doesn't have to deal with fans like that, because from where I'm sitting, he has it pretty easy in comparison. He deserved a reaction like last year for a number of games. Stop worrying so much about being criticized for a team that has largely deserved it, and worry more about proving them wrong every week.

  • In reply to iron81:

    I am glad to hear that you and NR have been spending time building out the taxonomy of "Enemies of the Fire," judging by your assessment that they encompass "Wallowers."

    Now you need to provide further details about the standing of the rest of the lot, including but not limited to:

    miscreants, ne'er-do-wells, scoundrels, lackeys, do-nothings, slackers, wastaways, ruffians, delinquents, goons, rowdies, thugs, hoods, philistines, clods, degenerates, ogres, savages, browbeaters, louts, troglodytes, ogres, fields, hectorers, beasts, cutthroats, punks, troublemakers, twerps, evildoers, blackguards, scalawags, wretches, wrongdoers, finks, lowlives, rats, loafers, reprobates, scums, cads, bullies, scamps, mishief-makers, tricksters, varmints, opportunists, good-for-nothings, wastrels, frauds, disgraces, rapscallions, swindlers, hooligans, rogues, whippersnapers, roughnecks, charlatans, cardsharps, profligates, toughs, hellions, terrors, grafters, grifters, bums, pretenders, reprobates, wretches, bandits, assassins, bruisers, bad eggs, culprits, lawbreakers, outcasts, transgressors, varlets, tyrants, harassers, pests, insolents, misusers, and mugs.

    All of these types are hanging about Toyota Park, on Big Soccer, on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, lurking in anticipation of AH slipping on a banana peel so that they may pounce on the misstep, amplify it, and raise it up to the heavens as an example of his evil misguided regime!

    Don't let this happen! Label them! Call them out! Above all, FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!

  • In reply to Modibo:


    Please don't forget to place the following in the taxonomy of Enemies of the Fire:

    gobermouches, meddlers, gnashnabs, nitpickers, moaners, grumblers, snoutbands, know-it-alls, stampcrabs, scobblelotchers, jerks, whiffle-whaffles, zounderkites, insignificants, bedswervers, fopdoodles, bumfuzzlers, canoodlers, diddlysquats, mugwumps, snarks, snollygosters, screwups, weasels, backstabbers, psychos, snakes-in-the-grass, and pariahs.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    You counted ogres twice and you forgot:

    Skips, scaps, marks, trick ass marks and mark ass tricks

  • In reply to AJties:


    I also realize that I missed kneecappers, lurkers, malingerers, shirkers, carpers, nigglers, haranguers, bellyachers, upbraiders, gripers, reprovers, pettifoggers, hairsplitters, quibblers, putterers, slugabeds, dalliers, tale-bearers, deep throats, betrayers, stoolies, squealers, blabbermouths, interlopers, baddies, snakes, stinkers, gluttons, gormandizers, swillers, trenchermen, munchers, and trash.

    Don / Iron81 has his work cut out for him.

  • fb_avatar

    I personally thought the wallowers comment was right on point. Some fans are wallowing in their negative view of the Fire. We get it, the team sucked for a while and there were plenty of people to blame (starting at the top). NR and Pauno are trying to change that. You don't have to get on board, but the past is the past. There is nothing NR and Pauno can do about that.

    I appreciated his comments about how they haven't accomplished anything yet. About how he is measuring his progress against the "plan" and remains humble that they still have a ways to go.

  • I took the wallowers comment into the context of the previous question, which he addressed exposure of the team in Chicago (which I translated to "media outlets.")

    Context of the listener, I guess.

  • Yes I have been critical several years after Hauptman became owner. I gave him the benefit of the doubt. He did say the right things. As time went by I noticed changes that did not fit with the club motto... Tradition Honor Passion. Those words went from being a point of pride to a marketing gimmick. Being a season ticket holder since 2000, pretty much gives me an all access pass to pretty much say what I want about my club. Dont care whether you agree or not. Ive spent way too much time on bus away trips...sometimes sober. I've spent money on merch, season tickets, Fire Foundation charity events....I really did enjoy supporting the club.

    Granted the over six years of crap on the field doesnt help but the lack of communication from the top brass about the vision of our club was it for me. Guys, I love the fact we are FINALLY WINNING!! I love seeing the Men in Red having fun out there.

    What Andy and Nelson fail to do is bring trust into our club. I still havent heard of a plan laid out. What is the goal for club in two years? four years??? 10 years???

    Im going to ask this question again and hopefully it will get a response. Exactly what percentage of the profits from the PrivateBank Fire Pitch goes back to the club? One would think building a "club house" where Fire supporters can feel their money is going back to invest in #cf97 is a dream scenario. Andrew can stop using is own money (GAM, TAM) and sell the FirePitch as the ultimate way to really finance the club.

    The more money the FirePitch makes the more money goes back to our club. But guess what folks... that's not happening. Profits are going back into Andy's pockets not to mention the investors he brought on board.

    I would love to hear that's not the case. I would to hear Andy made a long term business plan in which Fire supporters could literally help more than with season tickets. You know a sense of being a real club community.

    I will continue to criticize my club when it veers off the path.

    I will also continue to love my cf97.

    In closing...

    We love you Fire!!!

  • In reply to WBO5ElGuapo:

    I still haven't heard the trumpet though :)

  • NR has always been awkward in respect to the PR aspect. This doesn't surprise me. I can only hope he's smart enough to recognize his mistake and learn from it.

    More importantly, he has done well to move the Fire in the right player personnel direction. I'm loving the results this year and hopeful this may continue. But I expect this is ALL about AH's desire to extricate himself by selling the Fire with the minimum of financial loss-of-face.

    Which leaves me a little nervous about where we will be left with whatever new ownership we get. I am hopeful that the Andell "experience" will lead to MLS doing everything in their power to assure a more reputable and functional next owner.

    Right now though I am just trying to enjoy the good times. After the last decade, I don't want to miss these good times, however long or short the ride may be. I have no time for distress over stupid remarks from NR. Not surprising, but predictable. I wasn't interested in hearing him anyway. He's sort of the clown sideshow. Back to the main event at Toyota Park tomorrow!

  • I wonder why NR cares what the naysayers are saying? Which raises the question of why he would even mention "wallowers"? NR is not a genius. He has made some very good moves especially this offseason and the Schweisteiger signing. There were some questionable moves e.g Harrington's two year deal. I really don't care what his plan is or isn't if I see improvement. Last year, while the team basically had terrible results, they played far better, in my view, than under the three previous coaches. I enjoyed watching them compete because they showed cohesion and tactics that have not been on display for years. I assumed they were in tear down to build up mode. I was OK with last year because there was improvement in the style and intelligence of the way the team played. It wasn't always better, but the play was better overall. The results weren't there because the talent was not there. This year is year 2 of his plan. Clearly, the team is far, far better. I give the Fire huge kudos for making being a fan exciting and fun. The only issue I have with NR is that he is just too much of a little snot who carries himself with an air of undeserved superiority. Maybe he can get a life coach who can teach him how to pretend to be a nice guy? Here is my message to NR: It is OK if you don't know the answer to everything. It is OK to say, "I don't know." It is OK to say what you want to do even if you end up changing your mind. It is OK to respect an interviewer's question even if you think it is dumb. It is OK to acknowledge miscues if you learn from them. It is OK and not a sign of weakness to treat those who disagree you with respect.

  • In reply to Krasov:

    N-Rod cares about what the naysayers are saying because of his own ego.

    You know what I'm glad the Fire are playing well but I still have criticisms. Where is the dedicated training facilities for the 1st team and academy? Why does the 1st team and academy continue to rent field time at Bridgeview Stadium(Toyota Park) and the Fire Pitch in order to practice? Why is there no PDL team for the home grown college kids to play for during the summer? Why has there not been a larger investment in club infrastructure?

    All of these questions is about making the club better for the future and what N-Rod is doing with the 1st team is for the now. IMO

  • In reply to penapirata:

    All valid points that do not need to be responded to with snarky answers. If they have a plan, I don't need to know the details, but as a fan, I want to know they have 20 things to do but can't do them all at once. Building the pipeline of future talent is very important. LAFC is spending $30 million on a training facility for a team that does not exist. How over the long term will the Fire compete? Those are legit questions that should not be responded to with a smart aleck answer but with respect. Is it OK to disagree of priorities? Absolutely, but it is NOT OK to treat the fan or interviewer who asks about priorities with disdain.

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