The Chicago Fire have conducted a huge re-boot this offseason. Thus far, it has been met with critical reception. While some of the criticisms are valid, the idea was sound. They just missed on execution.
It has not been a successful run for the Chicago Fire. Andrew Hauptman was a contemptible owner, the club was jettisoned to the doomed Bridgeview, stuck in the doldrums of Major League Soccer, rarely competitive on the pitch and even more insignificant off it.
The Fire were spiralling out of control, and out of relevancy. For one of the stalwarts of MLS, in the third-largest city in the United States, one that is steeped in sporting history and passion, that is a crying shame.
And so, when Hauptman sold his majority share earlier this year and Joe Mansueto took over the reins as the Chicago Fire owner, the inevitable change that was to come was surely going to be positive, right? I mean, change was needed. Everyone could see it.
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Well, perhaps not. The Chicago Fire unveiled a massive rebranding this week, which included an entirely new badge and a vast array of media content about the heritage of the club, edgy social media videos with famous Chicagoans wearing stash around the city, and the necessary PR speak about tapping into the characteristics of the organisation, recognising the desires of the fanbase and city.
Sadly, they missed. They may have aimed to better connect with an increasingly disillusioned fan base, but they were unsuccessful. Ever since the unveiling of a new badge this week, the Fire have come under intense pressure and criticism, the designs largely been viewed as terrible. And, to be fair, they are.
The upside-down, yellow-and-red mountain-crown monstrosity is only worsened by the fact that it has been squeezed into an oval. Looking like a poor man’s take on the Vancouver Whitecaps’ logo without any class or non-bold colours, the badge has not been received well. And it is easy to see why.
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However, while much of this criticism is justified, I do feel that Mansueto and his intentions are extremely positive. This is a man who paid north of $60 million to release the Fire from their lease at Bridgeview such that they could play their matches at Soldier Field, a stadium that he has now said he wants to fill — that would be north of 60,000 fans in attendance.
The Chicago Fire have also parted ways with head coach Veljko Paunovic, which most supporters are happy with, while making key roster moves, including the retirement of Bastian Schweinsteiger, trading away Grant Lillard and Dax McCarty, and not exercising the contract option of top scorer Nemanja Nikolic, opening up another DP slot. This is an overhaul of the highest order.
Now, whether Mansueto and others in the corridors of power in Chicago will make the right decisions between now and the start of the 2020 season remains to be seen. Their track record thus far is sketchy at best.
But their intentions are good. They want to revitalise the Chicago Fire. And that should be enough to at least see what they can do.