After three consecutive years of futility, the Chicago Fire soccer team is regaining the luster it showed when the franchise was established 20 years ago. Give credit to general manager Nelson Rodriguez and head coach Veljko Paunovic for the team’s current high MSL standings.
Certainly, the acquisition of Nemanja Nikolic, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Juninho and Dax McCarthy playing with holdovers Matt Polster, David Accam and John Kappelhof. is a key factor in the turnaround. National coach Bruce Arena has noticed Polster’s outstanding play. Look for his call-up in the near future. McCarthy (U.S) and Accam (Ghana) have already been named to the National roster and will represent their respective countries.
The Fire had one major setback, losing in round 16 of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup competition to one of the best minor league teams, F.C. Cincinnati.
The team’s attendance has risen dramatically, recording numerous sellouts at Toyota Park In Bridgeview. Media coverage has also accelerated with constant coverage by ABC’s Channel 7 and WBBM Newsradio 78. The Chicago Tribune has assigned a freelance writer to cover home games, while the Daily Herald’s Orrin Schwartz continues his excellent reporting.
Believe Rodriguez should give contract extensions to Paunovic and players who have turned the team’s fortunes around and also recommend strengthening their roster to prepare for the upcoming MLS playoffs in November.
(Rowder has played amateur soccer with the German-American Athletic Club and in the Lincoln Park weekend league. He was a sports columnist on the now defunct Chicago Loop News and served on our Chicago Journalists Association’s board of directors.)