Chicago Fire president and general manager Nelson Rodriguez is planning to hold another media roundtable in about two weeks. It’s his second of the year.
In his last roundtable, Rodriguez was peppered with questions about the potential move to Soldier Field and rebrand, the then-new signings of Francisco Calvo and Kenneth Kronholm, and the club’s accomplishments off the field and in the community.
Hot Time In Old Town are not invited to participate in these roundtables, for reasons we won’t get into here. Nevertheless, we have some questions we’d like to ask.
Here’s what I would ask Rodriguez if I had the opportunity.
Is there a Year 5 of the “3 Year Plan?” Or do we look to reset this offseason?
Rodriguez has always said he and head coach Veljko Paunovic came into their positions with a three-year plan. We are now in the fourth year of that plan, and the fruits of their labor have not exactly materialized the way they wished.
All three of our Designated Players are out contract at the end of the year. You will most likely be moving into a new stadium. There will (hopefully) be a new CBA. Are we still executing the same plan? Or do we need a new one for 2020?
There’s no shortage of effort, or ambition, or willingness to commit to The Plan. But, The Plan itself isn’t working. What do we do now?
What is the Chicago Fire “game model?”
Every roundtable, Rodriguez references the “game model” that he and Paunovic are trying to build. As far as I can read, this is their term for the way in which those two would envision the team to play week to week. Rodriguez preaches patience. He stresses time and again that they’re building something, and that it’s difficult to execute.
What I am not clear on is what, exactly, they are building.
Let’s take the two fixtures against RBNY this season for example. Back in March, we sat deep, soaked up pressure, and left SeatGeek with a win. Last weekend, we utterly dominated in every offensive category except the one that matters: the scoreboard. If you only look at stats but not the final score, this was a strong performance for the Fire. But it’s the points that matter, and they’re just not there.
I’ve written about this before, but: what exactly is the “game model?” Rodriguez is asking us to trust that he has a plan, but what that plan is remains unclear. And it definitely doesn’t appear to be working.
What is your plan to integrate more academy players into the first team? Is our academy keeping pace with the rest of the league?
Looking across the league, it’s no secret that the #PlayYourKids movement is taking MLS by storm. There are many teams who have seen their investments in their academy system pay off— and some that are on the verge of ushering in their own youth movement.
Last December, FC Dallas hired Luchi Gonzalez, their long-time academy director, as head coach. It was the next logical step for a team that has invested heavily in their academy. The senior first team now boasts academy graduates who have made strong impacts, and helped lift Dallas to fourth place in the Western Conference. The Seattle Sounders have dumped a ton of money and focus into their own youth movement— a move that is starting to come to fruition, notably with their Champions Division GA Cup win this spring.
Does Rodriguez have a 3 Year Plan for the academy? Does he have any kind of plan?
If the Fire GM is serious about injecting more youth in the roster— something he’s alluded to in recent past roundtables— then the key will be investing in that talent. We can speak in platitudes all we want about how important the academy is to an MLS team, but what separates the Fire from others in the league in terms of strategy and investment?
What questions would you ask Nelson Rodriguez if you could? Let us know in the comments below.