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Who Should Replace Paunovic?

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We take a look at a few names that could be leading the Fire in 2020

New York Red Bulls v LA Galaxy: MLS Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

With the exit of Veljko Paunovic and the rest of his technical staff yesterday, the search for a new head coach for the Chicago Fire has begun in earnest.

There have been a lot of names thrown out there as possible replacements, so I took some time to compile a small list of names, and listed some pros and cons for each candidate,

Jose Mourinho

It’s the name that has been on everyone’s lips, joking or otherwise, since the news broke yesterday morning. He’s probably the manager with the most accolades and success without a job right now, and would be the most expensive and bold signing Joe Mansueto could make.

Pros

It’s hard to argue about his qualifications. He’s won multiple UEFA Champions League and domestic trophies. He’s managed some of the best and has been able to successfully manage egos to glory. Behind all the bluster and bravado lives a man who loves to think about the game, and is always thinking about where finding the edge that will win games. If we’re looking for someone obsessed with winning, this is the guy.

Cons

Aside from Porto, his biggest successes were with teams that could pay for and acquire top level talent with close to unlimited budgets. With the constraints of MLS’s roster building rules and the weird salary structure, It’s very hard if not impossible to put together a squad that would keep him happy and engaged. I’d worry that he’d get disillusioned and check out quickly in a similar fashion to Ruud Gullit during his tenure with the LA Galaxy. Plus, based on his tenure at Man United, he may not have the genius anymore.

CJ Brown

The current assistant of NYCFC, CJ Brown is probably the best qualified former Fire player who isn’t currently managing a team right now. Since retiring in 2010, he’s been learning the ropes from people like Jason Kreis and Domènec Torrent as an assistant.

Pros

His hiring would show ownership’s recommitment to the history of the club. And in a year where we’re expecting a brand refresh, that would come as welcome relief to most if not all of the fanbase. CJ Brown is an actual Fire legend and would be welcomed with open arms. This is probably the best PR manager hire— it would be the least controversial and most well received of all the hires they could make.

Cons

Regardless of his club legend status and his seven year apprenticeship, the question that must be asked is, “can the club afford another manager that is learning on the job?” Paunovic’s biggest problem was his inexperience at both managing player conflict, and the game itself. In a year where the club need to make the biggest impact on the pitch as well as off of it, I don’t know if a manager on his first job is where you want to be.

Miguel Herrera

The current manager of Club America, and reaction gif icon, Herrera is another one of those can’t-miss hires at first glance. He’s been around the North American game a long time, and has been successful everywhere he’s been.

Pros

He wins wherever he goes, and his football is exciting to watch. Club America has been nothing but successful since he got there, and just recently won the 2019 Clausura Copa MX with the club. He could also be instrumental in the signing of Latinx players that would energize a large segment of the fanbase, creating a buzz that the Fire haven’t seen since Blanco rode off into the horizon.

Cons

If you thought Velkjo Paunovic was volatile and petty with his players, Miguel Herrera is on a whole ‘nother level. He’s benched players for remaining friends and communicating with former teammates, and was fired from El Tri in 2013 for assaulting a journalist. He also was suspended for three games in October for using a homophobic slur at a referee. You do not want that kind of press.

Chris Armas

The current manager of the New York Red Bulls, Armas has had big shoes to fill after Jesse Marsch left for Europe. He has filled them well, making the playoffs each of his first two seasons, and winning a Supporters Shield in 2018.

Pros

Everything that CJ Brown had going for him applies here too, plus the benefits of already having managerial experience and being successful at it.

Cons

He’s still under contract in New York, so that means that if the Fire want to hire him, they’re going to need to give the Red Bulls some sort of compensation, whether it be a transfer fee or draft picks or something else. He’s also had some criticism leveled on him by the fanbase, although some say that it’s been done unfairly, and that he was set up to fail by management.

Mike Petke

No. God, no. We do not want that energy in our lives. We’ve suffered enough.

Pros

He’s okay. He’s been relatively successful every club he’s managed.

Cons

He was fired from RSL for a homophobic tirade during the Leagues Cup. You do not want to be the first club that hires him.

Conclusion

I think the best hire form the name’s I’ve listed would be Chris Armas. He’s already a successful manager, and is probably the least risky of all the candidates I’ve laid out. On the other hand, Mourinho has both the lowest floor and highest ceiling of all the managers out there. If you’re a gambling man, he’s your guy.


What do you think? It would be impossible to go through each and every candidate, so I’m sure I missed some. Leave us a comment below with who you think the next Fire manager should be.