All this talk about Tab Ramos and Guillermo Barros Schelotto was for naught.
Out of nowhere, the Chicago Fire introduced Veljko Paunovic, a former La Liga and Philadelphia Union player, as their new head coach Tuesday. Before I continue, here comes my shocking full disclosure: I know next to nothing about this man.
But what has surfaced early on is nearly universal praise from soccer experts on Paunovic's work with the Serbian Under-20 team, which won the U-20 World Cup in 2015. That is no easy task, so kudos to him and his young men.
However, coaching a U-20 side to a World Cup victory and a team of professionals from varying backgrounds through the physical and "unique" season of Major League Soccer are two very different challenges. Paunovic has a grand total of 17 MLS appearances, so I do not put much stock into the narrative of him having a working knowledge of what it takes to succeed in MLS 2015.
That should not discount the fact that soccer is indeed a universal language and Paunovic just might be that special type of person who knows how to get the most out of his group in every situation. It's all speculation. The truth is this isn't Jason Kreis or Mike Petke or Sigi Schmid -- there is no track record to evaluate.
While we hope for the best on the field, one thing is already very clear: Paunovic is a master wordsmith. Behold the super hot fire he unleashes:
"I love this kind of challenge, where you have to build a champion by giving your best in every moment. I see the Chicago Fire as a hurt lion ready to unleash all its power."
Good thing the Chicago Fire signed him before Under Armour, because I have a feeling this man has hundreds of sayings that can get you hyped to run through a wall for your team.
As a player, Paunovic played professionally for 17 years, amassing 76 goals in 358 appearances. Of those, 38 goals came in 212 games in La Liga with multiple clubs including Atletico Madrid.
Paunovic speaks four languages including Spanish and English, which is actually a huge positive when it comes to attracting players and communicating. At the very least, it shows he is a very dedicate communicator. I'm from America and I had a hard enough time learning English.
There are a lot of unknowns about this hiring, but I am cautiously optimistic. It was refreshing to see Rodriguez go a different direction from Ramos, who I initially thought would be the choice. Not that Ramos isn't a fine coach, but there would've been something safe and stale about the selection.
Perhaps this will be a disaster or perhaps this will be a great success, but for the first time in a while, Fire fans will go into a season where pretty much anything is possible and the man in charge comes from outside the MLS coaching circle club.
Welcome to Chicago, Mr. Paunovic!