If you haven’t heard, the Chicago Cubs are in the playoffs for the first time in quite a while and will take on Pittsburgh in a winner-take-all game tonight.
I know very little about baseball, but from what I have gathered from fans and pundits, the team is a year ahead of schedule in a lengthy, patient rebuild. The surprise postseason appearance seems to be credited to two things. One, the young core of prospects developed much faster than expected and transitioned to major league play with few setbacks. Two, the team hired Joe Maddon to steer the ship.
That second point seems to be debated daily on sports radio. How much is a manager worth in wins and losses and would the team be in the same situation without Maddon? It is an impossible question to answer, but it is clear Maddon has a presence about him that calms the players and perhaps even inspires them. It is also clear he has a great amount of faith in playing the kids.
As I watch a fandom in a sport I have no attachment to celebrate and anxiously await a very meaningful game, I cannot help but daydream about the days the Chicago Fire may once again experience such moments. And when you think about it, the Fire may have potential to be “ahead of schedule” on their own path to rebuilding.
Like the Cubs, the Fire have finally brought in a well-respected soccer mind to take over general manager duties. While Nelson Rodriguez may be no Theo Epstein, he almost assuredly has a clearer vision than Frank Yallop on what it takes to win in 2015. At the very least, it is a change that has potential to start changing the culture around the franchise.
Also like the Cubs, the Fire have some young building blocks. Without question, Harry Shipp, David Accam and Matt Polster are pieces envied by the rest of the league. Mikey Stephens has shown potential to be a key piece of a successful club and Gilberto just might be on the rise and a true goal scorer. The back four is a bit of a disaster and the depth is lacking, but there is something to build around.
That leaves the all important managerial decision. Can the Fire find their Joe Maddon? It is not impossible for quick turnarounds in the MLS, but the club cannot afford to miss on the manager. They must find the man or woman capable of putting the players in the best places to succeed (like Harry Shipp in the center of the pitch). They need someone with a presence, someone capable of adjusting to stop a losing streak and adjusting to keep a winning streak alive.
Soccer has a wide, wide world of potential candidates. Who do you think could be the Fire’s Joe Maddon?
He has Chicago Fire connections, but more importantly a winning track record as a coach. A Supporters Shield in 2013 landed the New York Red Bulls their first major trophy, showing Petke has the ability to steady a team throughout a season and prevent long losing runs. He followed up with an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2014 before he was shockingly fired.
I understand Yallop had a winning track record coming into Chicago, but there is certainly more faith Petke has evolved with MLS as it continues to improve. He has shown flexibility in formation, switching to a 4-4-2 after his preferred 4-3-3 didn’t produce results. Coming from a defensive background as a player doesn’t hurt either. He could help cut down on those costly mental errors.
Seems like a longshot but he has said in interviews he would listen to offers. Clearly the man can coach. He did great work in the most recent edition of the World Cup, leading Mexico to the knockout round despite barely qualifying for the tournament to begin with. He has won in Liga MX and took another title in the 2015 Gold Cup.
Herrera’s experience and relationships in Liga MX would be most valuable. He would be a vital recruiting resource and just might pull off some shocking signings because of the trust he has established with players. This market was built for a Mexican star and Miguel Herrera just might be able to deliver one.
His sideline theatrics are also awesome. Nothing wrong with a little sideline entertainment.
He is already here and could be considered a candidate. He has had previous interim coaching jobs with Sporting Kansas City and the Columbus Crew, two pretty successful programs. The fact he wasn’t offered a full-time job could be considered concerning, but it is hard to pass on a candidate like Gregg Berhalter. He showed his soccer mind in Columbus anyway, serving as technical director over teams that earned two Supporters Shield trophies and an MLS Cup.
I still think this could be a risky choice, but his sample size is too small to judge. He already has played Shipp in the center of the pitch, so we know he is at least not completely incompetent.
And because this is a post involving the Chicago Fire and a coaching search; *something something Eric Wynalda something something.*
Who would you peg?