“Our biggest threat isn’t our opponents, it’s ourselves.”
Those were the words of Fire manager Veljko Paunovic after what was yet another dropped result to a inferior side in FC Cincinnati.
Paunovic’s press conferences and player quotes after games like Saturday night are always interesting to me; there is always your customary coach speak, your canned answers and your positive spin on the game. But there’s also usually a tidbit or two that catches my eye.
“Every day I’m concerned about my job security… I’m not concerned, it’s moreso I’m aware,” is the quote that I took away from his session with the media this weekend.
To say that Chicago Fire supporters are aware of his job security is an understatement. There have been rumors swirling in every corner of the fanbase on how much leash Paunovic has left in his role with the Fire, some even saying he was given a points ultimatum a few weeks ago. Wherever the fanbase believed the bar was for Paunovic, he clearly didn’t meet it.
So, for the front office— the people making the decisions— where is the bar? The Fire are approaching a toothless one point per game this season. They haven’t won a game on the road in an entire calendar year. They were embarrassingly bounced from the Open Cup from a team who is currently in the bottom half of their conference in USL. They’re slowly sinking to the bottom of the Eastern Conference in league play. I mean, sure, the xG this year is through the roof, but that doesn’t mean anything.
What Veljko Paunovic might have meant to say is that his job security is unprecedented for not only this club, but I would say even in this league to date. Not every situation is the same, but have you noticed that the New England Revolution lately? Remember the team the Fire slapped around 5-0 at SeatGeek on May 8th? Well they fired Brad Friedel the next day, and haven’t looked back since, surging past the Fire in the standings and jumping right back into playoff contention under Bruce Arena.
How about the Colorado Rapids, another team that the fire dismantled at home early in the year? After cutting bait with Anthony Hudson they’ve found their footing, and I would take the Fire’s roster over both of those teams! They’ve proven that in both situations these turnarounds are more than just the new coach bounce, but in fact a good adjustment by the front office and something they can build on.
Paunovic mentioned Saturday night that he would not give up, or his locker room would not give up as long as he was a part of it. I love to hear that out of a manager of a team I support. I appreciate the candid nature of the players saying how much this situation sucks, and how they will work their way out of it. But Paunovic is right; their biggest opponent is themselves.
Doesn’t that mean there needs to be some kind of move made so they can get out of their own way?