An interesting bit of Chicago Fire sundry came out over the last few days that went a little bit under the radar— which is completely understandable. Despite two clean-sheets in a row and the first win in something like two months, the Fire fanbase and organization find themselves in the midst of an existential crisis.
There has been lots of speculation and innuendo floating around the internet fueled by comments from the front office that as of next year the move to Soldier Field will correlate with a re-brand. The Chicago Fire may no longer be the Chicago Fire as of 2020.
A lot of this stems from the not unfounded belief that ownership, lead by Andrew Hauptman and Fire GM Nelson Rodriguez, care not one iota for the passion and tradition the club stands for, and have no Idea how to run and maintain a successful soccer club.
Which brings us to this tidbit from soccer reporter Juan Pimiento.
It turns out former #CF97 left back Brandon Vincent could have to left Chicago anyway before retiring after the 2018 season— Juan S. Pimiento (@PimientoFutbol) August 3, 2019
The Fire had an agreement with FC Cincinnati on a trade for up to 265K in allocation money last summer
Here’s the doc signed by Nelson Rodriguez himself pic.twitter.com/mv4RP46Gyh
First, I want to express how cool it is that we get to see an internal trade sheet. Things like this rarely make it to public viewing, and shows how mundane things like roster moves are in an official setting. It’s a single page document with the terms lined out in order—the I’s dotted and T’s crossed.
As for the deal itself, on a surface level, this trade makes absolute sense, like most of their deals. The Fire get some allocation money for the next few years in order to retool their roster after a disappointing 2018 campaign, and move a player who isn’t playing well, and seems unhappy with his role at the club. And besides, 2018 me would say, we have a perfect replacement in Andrew Gutman waiting in the academy.
Oh. What’s that? The Fire in the 2018/2019 offseason said they didn’t rate him and he went off to Scotland and couldn’t get a work permit and then ended up with FC Cincinnati in an ironic twist that couldn’t be made up even if you wanted to?
#FCCincy have acquired the MLS Homegrown Rights to Andrew Gutman from @ChicagoFire: https://t.co/rWrrSm6TGC pic.twitter.com/rEYOwbRknM— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) August 1, 2019
It’s humiliation after humiliation for the club. When they try do do something remotely positive for the franchise, it always winds up coming back to bite them. With the release of this document, it turns the saga of both Brandon Vincent and Andrew Gutman into one of the biggest goat rodeos in recent club history. It’s right up there with losing Jermaine Jones to the Revs on a coin flip and Juan Quintero playing Nelson Rodriguez in order to get a better deal in Argentina.
It’s clear now that the only reason they said all those negative things about Gutman because he didn’t want to sign here in the first place. Something happened in between them trying to create a roster space for him in July to his signing with Celtic that turned his so far off the club that even when the roster spot opened up with Vincent’s retirement, he didn’t want it. Whatever the details, it screwed up the 2019 Fire season beyond repair. If this were a competently run organization, it would’ve cost people their jobs.
The problem, as the ongoing existential crisis exemplifies, is that this is not a competently run organization. Whatever good they do, whatever small gains they make is out weighed by the negative consequences that plague every move this organization makes. A re-brand won’t change who’s in charge of the club. A leopard doesn’t change it’s spots, and as long as the same people are in charge, the Fire will always be a mess.