Chicago Fire Midweek Training: 3 takeaways from Week 19

BRIDGEVIEW, ILLINOIS - JULY 17: The Columbus Crew SC Celebrate after a goal in the game against the Chicago Fire at SeatGeek Stadium on July 17, 2019 in Bridgeview, Illinois. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
BRIDGEVIEW, ILLINOIS - JULY 17: The Columbus Crew SC Celebrate after a goal in the game against the Chicago Fire at SeatGeek Stadium on July 17, 2019 in Bridgeview, Illinois. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Fire, Nelson Rodriguez
Nelson Rodriguez, general manager of US soccer club Chicago Fire, speaks during a press conference where German soccer player Bastian Schweinsteiger (not pictured) was introduced, in Chicago, Illinois, USA, 29 March 2017. Schweinsteiger has transferred to Chicago Fire from Manchester United. Photo: Ting Shen/dpa | usage worldwide (Photo by Ting Shen/picture alliance via Getty Images) /

1. The Rodriguez round-table

A lot of the formulation of these topics came into the forefront of my head because of Nelson Rodriguez’s recent media round-table. While I have some issues with the things he talked about, there’s much more to be said about the way he handles these round-tables. While this is more heart-over-head-type writing, it’s something that I think needs to be discussed because Rodriguez seems to be wasting everyone’s time.

When it comes to a media round-table, you expect there to be a sort of script from the person at the center of it. There is a company line that needs to be stuck with and that’s what Rodriguez does. But he does it in such a weird way. Earlier in the year, he said something about how the club’s biggest need was the concept of Ubuntu. If you also just pulled up Google, don’t worry I’ve got you. Ubuntu is the African philosophy of ‘humanity towards others’. What does this have to do with winning soccer games? This time, he said that one of the goals that he set for the players was to ‘become a giver’ and be kinder to others. Once again, this makes no real sense in the context of professional sport.

Nelson Rodriguez touts the club’s humanitarian awards like trophies won on the pitch. He celebrated a JD Power Award like a U.S. Open Cup. I do not deny that good people at the club worked towards these goals. I know quite a few of them and think they’re excellent. The club’s P.L.A.Y.S. program is fantastic and does a ton of good for the community in Chicago. But when you’re on the hot seat for not doing your job of putting a competitive team on the pitch, using the accomplishments of those people to deflect from your own failures is selfish and takes away from the good that they do.

Many of the complaints about these round-tables are about how most of it is filled with buzzwords about business metrics, celebration of off-the-field projects, and constant talk of players that Rodriguez ‘just missed out on’. There is no substance and sometimes there is proof of out-right lies. Take earlier in the season when there were reports that the Chicago Fire were going to buy out of their lease with Bridgeview. When presented with the story on a reporter’s laptop, Rodriguez denied it. Now, the deal having just now been officially announced by the club, he talks about it like it was done all the way back then.

What irked me the most was his continued talk about rebranding like it is necessary. He casually threw away any valid criticism from fans who have been supporters of the club for over 20 years as just ‘die-hards who don’t want anything to change’. With that, he dismissed the only market for the Fire right now. The only way for the club to improve in stature is for those ‘die-hards’ to integrate new fans into becoming. Casual fans don’t go to away games on a weekday to cheer on a team that is winless in their last 10. Casual fans don’t try to convince friends and family to come to games. Casual fans don’t stay up until three in the morning to write articles on how much the team means to them.

The Chicago Fire based themselves on three pillars, taken from a quote by former captain and fan favorite CJ Brown and etched into a plaque given to the club along with a piece of the original Section 8 section: Tradition, Honor, Passion. With every fiber of my being, I will continue to try to scream into the void as much as I can about how much the club’s management has disregarded these pillars. I will continue to reject the very idea of a club rebrand because there is no need for one as long as the club stays true to those pillars.

Next. Atlanta United Vs Houston Dynamo: 3 things we learned. dark

As a friend at the game told me recently: It is the goodwill of the club that brings people out to games long after the team has stopped winning. Continuing to tarnish that goodwill by refusing to fix problems and further alienating those people is only going to make everything worse.