Shortly before the Chicago Fire were due to travel to Tennessee to face Nashville SC, head coach Raphael Wicky left the team to fly home to Switzerland, because of a health emergency involving his dad.
“It was a very tough week, very emotional week, last week, but I was very happy that the Club and the team and everyone was understanding that I wanted to go home and see my family and be there for them and with them,” Wicky told reporters on Wednesday. “That meant a lot to me, but it was very emotional and now I’m back, hanging in there.”
Wicky said the situation with his dad is “still ongoing,” and “still very, very critical.” He didn’t give many specifics beyond that, but he decided coming back to Chicago was the right move, for now.
“There are certain things that are more important than football,” Wicky said. “That’s why I went back home last week. But I also know that my dad would have wanted me to go back to work and not just sit there and wait if there’s nothing I can do. So we all agreed that it’s best to come back and come back to work, do my job, be with the team, be here. And, obviously, my thoughts are back home with my family and supporting them and we’re hoping (for the best). So that’s where we are.”
Wicky said he spoke several times a day with assistant coach Frank Klopas, who led the team during his absence. Wicky missed three games while he was away—a 5-1 loss to Nashville, a 2-2 draw with D.C. United, and a 2-1 loss to Toronto FC that saw the Fire tie a club record for shots in a game, with 31. The Nashville loss was brutal—it was game over within 15 minutes—but the other two games were very winnable. The Fire led D.C. United 2-0 until late in the match. And the Toronto match saw the Fire dominate nearly every statistical category except the most important one: the score.
“I can tell you that it is way harder to be somewhere in a hotel room or in a room and watching these games on an iPad than being on the sideline,” Wicky said. “You’re helpless. You can’t do anything. So I didn’t really enjoy that, I have to say. I was obviously watching the games and of course like everyone else here I’m not happy with the results we made.”
“Every player I can say thinks constantly about his family situation, his dad situation, that he’s facing,” Fire midfielder Przemyslaw Frankowski said of his coach through a translator. “We really support him the best we can. We always try to be supportive. I wish we could also support him by winning our games. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen. We certainly hope that his father’s condition will improve day-to-day really, it will all be better. And also we really work very hard on winning these games so he can feel our support in the most tangible terms.”
Saturday the Fire will visit the Philadelphia Union—a team they’re facing for the third time this season. Wicky will be back on the sideline for the first time since the 3-1 win over Orlando City in early July. He’s busy preparing the Fire for that game, as he waits for word from his family across the Atlantic on what’s happening next with his dad.
“I think you have to keep going on,” Wicky said. “You cannot just sit there. Last week was very important for me to be there, physically to be there with my family, my sisters, my mom and obviously before surgery with my dad. But now there is not much I could do in Switzerland, so I came back and I’m happy to be back here, happy to be back at work with the team, with my staff, and like I said, the rest is, we’re hoping and praying.”