During the off season, Chicago Fire Sporting Director Georg Heitz said that “continuity” would bring success. The club dumped a handful of veterans in favor of younger, unproven signings, but largely kept the same roster from 2020. Heitz’s stated goal was the same—qualifying for the playoffs in 2022 in year two of this rebuilding project.
Instead, from a points-per-game perspective, the Fire are actually worse than they were last season. Wednesday’s miserable 3-0 loss to D.C. United should kill off any talk of making the postseason. It’s now abundantly clear to everyone, even the most optimistic of us, that these last two years have been a failure from a football standpoint.
There are ten games left, and they now must be used in ways that will benefit the team next season. Give minutes to the glut of homegrowns sitting on the bench (except maybe Brian Gutierrez. A lingering foot issue means it might be better to shut him down). See what they can do. Start Federico Navarro. Any veterans who are already checked out should be benched, and should be called out publicly.
And, most of all, Joe Mansueto should already be making calls to see who’s available, both as a potential sporting director and as a head coach. I like both Heitz and Raphael Wicky personally, and I see why Mansueto does, too. But I don’t think either man could argue this has worked. Mansueto said he likes to stick with people and give them time, but if a proven MLS guy like Bob Bradley or Garth Lagerwey could be lured here in some capacity, do it. Do it now. Don’t wait. Have them here before MLS Cup.
I say this all the time, but look at New England. Bruce Arena has better MLS chops than practically anyone. They got it right with all three designated players, and they’re going to win the Supporters’ Shield. In Chicago, the Fire gave a DP contract to an unproven project, and missed on two more (at least this season. To be fair, Robert Berić and Gastón Giménez were both much better last season). There were other strange decisions, like wrapping up so much money in fullbacks.
If 2021 was about continuity, then 2022 should be about accountability, and that should start now. Fans have waited a long time for a winner in Chicago. There’s a new logo coming in a few weeks, which will build a little bit of goodwill. But, if this team isn’t measurably better at the beginning of next season, it won’t really matter.