Fire Academy Director Sunderland leaving the Club

The Chicago Fire Academy has been one of club’s biggest positives over the last several years. While the first team has foundered, the Academy has been able to find success on the field. The Homegrown player pool has produced some talent with more prospects on the way and several in collegiate soccer. Fire Confidential has learned that Academy Director Larry Sunderland is set to leave the club to accept a similar position with the MLS Cup Champion Portland Timbers.

Sunderland has been at the helm of the Fire Academy since 2007 after a stint with Chicago Fire Juniors. Under his direction the club has won National Championships at the U-16 level in 2010 and with the U-18’s in 2015. The latest crop of Academy products features highly rated players such as Cam Lindley and Mauricio Pineda, both of whom are regulars for the US U-18 team, and have committed to attend to the University of North Carolina.

Sunderland moves to Portland, where a vacancy exists on the bench of USL side Timbers 2 after they parted ways with coach Jay Vidovich, who is now guiding the University of Pittsburgh. It’s possible that current Academy Director Mike Smith moves into the T2 role or Sunderland takes over as the Technical Director for the Timbers Academy program.

Regardless of his new position in Portland, Nelson Rodriguez and Veljko Paunovic now have the Academy system vacancy to address on top of restructuring the first team. Under Sunderland’s direction, the Fire Academy earned high marks for style of play and grew into one of the most well respected Academies in the country.

Perhaps unexpectedly, the Fire could be starting anew from development on up.

Filed under: 2015 Post season

Tags: Chicago Fire


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  • Good for Larry. He's a class guy who's done a great job with the Academy, have to think he'll be equally successful in Portland.

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    Maybe current assistant coach Fire Legend Segares could take over

  • Former pro is a good start, but this Larry had some special talents and field intellect. His soccer "spidey senses" are unmatched. He can size an opponent up by watching them warm up for 10 min. and be spot on with his tactics. That and unmatched energy are what make him a rare breed. He's a little General Patton, a little...Bob Bradley, and a pinch of Bobby Knight.

  • A huge loss for this club. I hope the Fire are taking a long reality check because if certain things were in order with the club, I doubt Sunderland is off to Portland.

  • Could be just coincidence or just a visit but...Serbia U15 coach Marko Mitrovic is in town.

    He was also Paunovic's top assistant with the U20s.

  • *watching from the sidelines*

  • More notes:

    According to Orrin Schwarz, the Fire and TFC are both pursuing a trade with Portland for Will Johnson.

    Justin Mapp has signed with SKC, becoming the first "free agent" signing in league history.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    *watching from the sidelines with a raised eyebrow*

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    You think Will Johnson will want to come here? Heard rumors that he was pretty mad about his time here before.

  • In reply to penapirata:

    Yeah. He wasn't real happy here in his first go round.

    The bigger concern should be whether or not he can be pre-leg injury Will Johnson.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    I've always been a fan of Will Johnson. Been saying the past few seasons that he is the type of player that the midfield needs. But if the injury hampers him it might not be a good idea.

  • In reply to penapirata:

    Will Johnson would be a great signing. We need players for this roster. We had to field players like Ritter, Watson, and Cocis last season. Johnson would be a great role model for Polster and the other younger guys. He is a leader by his play and his voice. We NEED those types of players in this club. He is another hometown guy that we could use. Sign him up.

  • He was here in 2005. Under AEG. The year it dismissed Peter Wilt. With Dave Sarachan as coach. I don't think anyone is still around from that era, and in any case, I would think that he would have gotten past that. He played for Chicago Sockers, so it would be nice to have him back to that degree. I would have preferred to have the 2010 Will Johnson, but nothing is set, yet, anyway.

  • In reply to Fuegofan:

    Yeah, I don't think many are left from around that time, except for a few of us fans.

  • In reply to waamsy:

    You mean the few "angry bears"?

  • Official word on Sunderland's move to Portland.

    Taking over as Academy Technical Director

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    More salt in the wound. Yay.

  • I bet Will Johnson and his injured leg would be happy to not play his home games on FieldTurf.

  • So anything new besides Sunderland leaving and the Trump tweet?

  • In reply to penapirata:

    Homegrown announcement coming.

  • Congrats to the winner of the boots from Soccerloco via our last podcast.


    A $275 value, just for listening to Fire Confidential Live.

  • So, what more is there on Calistri and Conner that's not in the Fire's Homegrown signing announcement today?

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