The Chicago Fire’s new gaffer met the media Wednesday, laying out his plan and philosophy to help the club, finally, win games. Here are five key takeaways of what we learned:
More “growing pains” are coming
Less than two years ago, when the Fire were introducing Raphael Wicky as the club’s new head coach, Wicky several times used the word “patience” to warn fans that things might be rough.
They were. And the club didn’t have much patience with Wicky, firing him after less than two seasons. Now, with another roster rebuild underway, Hendrickson is promising a winning culture, but with a caveat.
“I’m excited and I hope you guys are excited and the fans are going to enjoy what this team is going to be about going forward,” Hendrickson told reporters. “It’s going to be some growing pains, but just know that we’ll get this thing right and get this team back to where they belong, and that’s to be one of the top teams in this league.”
Heitz was clearly impressed
Georg Heitz didn’t want to speak about the other two finalists for the job, Ante Razov and Paulo Nagamura, but he did say it was Hendrickson who stood out the most.
“I think the whole assessment was not easy for the candidates because we had some tricky questions that we asked, and he did great in all the interviews that we had with him,” Heitz said. “He really did great, be it tactically, be it also—you know, when you hire someone, you want him to be hungry, hungry for this job, and this was a feeling that we all had; that he’s very hungry; that he’s very keen on becoming our new head coach. This was also very, very important for us.
“One thing that I always say in such processes is I always try to be in the shoes of a player, and I ask myself, could this guy motivate me as a player, would run for him, and I’d definitely run quite far for Ezra.”
Bornstein is back, but no word on Gimenez or Omsberg
Heitz didn’t want to speak much about the roster, instead choosing to make things about his new head coaching hire. But he did admit fan favorite defender Jonathan Bornstein will return next season. Heitz refused to provide an answer on two other players, though: we still don’t know if designated player Gaston Gimenez and backup centerback Wyatt Omsberg will return.
This was Ezra’s first in-person interview
For all the times we’ve heard Hendrickson’s name batted around as a candidate for other MLS jobs over the last few seasons, this was the first time he’d ever had an in-person interview.
“I‘m a very confident individual,” Hendrickson said. “Everyone who knows me knows that, and so I never once thought, you know, this will not happen. I just knew that I had to keep working hard. I believe in hard work, and I just knew that I had to keep working hard and that one day this opportunity would present itself.
“Ironically, it was my first time being interviewed in person for a head coaching job. So I just always prepared myself and always envisioned myself being in this position. Never once did I waiver. Never once did I, you know, feel like giving up as far as being a leader of a team in a head coaching position.
“I always thought the opportunity would come and I always prepared myself that when it came, I would be ready for it, and that’s the case right now.”
Hendrickson understands the assignment
Fire fans are starved for wins, which was reflected in attendance figures at both Soldier Field and SeatGeek Stadium over the last several years. Henderson gets it.
“Well, I’m a big believer in, you win, and people will get excited and people will come to games,” he said. “We are going to play a brand of soccer that the people of Chicago that resonates with them.
“But at the end of the day, you can play beautiful soccer all you want; if you’re not winning, it’s going to be difficult. Especially in a city like Chicago with so many other things going on, so many other avenues, so many other sporting events and so many other attractions that people can go to; if you’re not winning they are not going to come.”