Earlier this morning Chicago Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic and general manager Nelson Rodriguez sat down with reporters to give their final verdict on the 2017 season. The pair also gave status updates on injuries with some key squad members, contract negotiations, and some general comments on how the team will look to reconfigure itself ahead of 2018.
(If the video above isn’t loading for you, you can watch the press conference here.)
Here are some of the highlights from the presser:
- Pauno says contract talks with Bastian Schweinsteiger are going “very, very positively.” While he wouldn’t get into specifics or lay out a timetable for an announcement, the Fire head coach seems confident that Basti will be back in Fire Red in 2018.
- Rodriguez says that the club will be considering all their contract options through the end of November. He said officials involved in the process will be taking their time and that he and others will be looking at the international transfer market to see what their options are as they consider contract renewals for current squad members.
- Rodriguez also said that injuries to Michael de Leeuw and Djordie Mihailovic will lead them to look at attack-minded players during the next transfer window.
- David Accam had surgery yesterday to treat a sports hernia. He’s expected to return to training in December and to be ready for preseason prep in January.
- Pauno addressed rumors that he’s under consideration to take over as manager of the Serbian national team. Per the Fire’s Twitter account: “I haven’t met or talked to anyone from the Serbian Federation. I went to Serbia for a professional scouting trip and to see my family, and went to other European countries for scouting as well.”
- Both Pauno and N-Rod said that they’re happy with the progress made in 2017 but were in agreement that there was more work to be done. Paunovic: “We said we were going to build a championship program and I’m very happy with the progress we had.” This seems to indicate that the club are aiming to build a roster capable of competing for the MLS Cup.
All in all, it’s about what you’d expect from Pauno and N-Rod at this kind of press conference. Their big picture comments seemed to be an attempt to thread the needle between acknowledging the huge improvements made in going from back-to-back bottom of the table performances to finishing 3rd in a fiercely competitive Eastern Conference, while also acknowledging it wasn’t enough and not making excuses or equivocations for that. The update on contract talks with Schweinsteiger was heartening (if somewhat vague), while Pauno’s categorical denial of talks with the Serbian FA may or may not convince skeptics in the cf97 fan community.
With the press conference, the offseason is truly upon us. The next wave of news will likely involve players being released or put on waivers, followed by contract updates for key members of the squad. Then the start of preseason training. Then the Superdraft. Then the AGM. Then preseason friendlies. Before you know it, we’ll be back in the Harlem End in 35-degree weather, ready for whatever 2018 has to throw at us.