Chicago Fire: Top 3 best options for club president

Chicago Fire (Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images)
Chicago Fire (Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Fire
Chicago Fire (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Fire supporters received some very welcome news earlier this week with Nelson Rodriguez’s resignation being announced on Monday. Normally, a club executive’s resignation is followed by not much. Maybe they’re beloved and there’s some small reaction from fans thanking them for their service. But Rodriguez’s resignation was greeted with blaring trumpets and widespread celebration across the Fire’s Twitter base. But maybe it’s just a big reaction to any news in the offseason after being away from their home stadium so long.

No, Nelson Rodriguez was pretty bad.

If you ask anyone closely tied to the Chicago Fire’s official Independent Supporters’ Association about him, you would hear horror story after horror story. Some involve current players, some involve former players, others involve internal issues. Unfortunately, there are so many of these stories that I cannot independently verify. But there is one story that I can talk about as it became a major news story and talking point for almost a year: the attempted destruction of Sector Latino.

In the middle of the 2018 season, Nelson Rodriguez used an alleged incident involving a flare near Sector’s part of the stadium to revoke the season tickets of 200 of the team’s most passionate fans.

This action led to a long-term protest of the club’s actions throughout the rest of the season, which then saw further sanctions against supporters as a reaction. Actions like this as well as the club’s lack of success under his time at both GM and President give us the reason for the celebrations being had by fans around the Chicago Fire.

But Joe Mansueto and the Men in Red (or Blue, I guess) have a big challenge ahead of them in choosing who will replace Nelson as President of the Chicago Fire. Prior to the hiring of Georg Heitz, there were rumors all around the club of the possible arrival of Seattle Sounders executive Garth Lagerway as the club’s next GM. But for one reason or another, that didn’t work out.

With the President’s role now open, those rumors are swirling again. But I have a few other options for the club to consider for this specific role. Club President isn’t about the soccer-facing side of the club, it’s the supporter-facing side of the club. And there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to rebuild from what Nelson Rodriguez destroyed.

Here are 3 possible hires (that aren’t Garth Lagerway) that could repair the Chicago Fire:

Diego Gutierrez

First on my list is a former player for the Chicago Fire and a man who was recognized as one of the best to play for the team in the first decade of the club’s existence. You probably remember him as a midfielder who bounced between the Fire and the Kansas City Wizards (now Sporting Kansas City). He scored his first professional goal in the 1998 MLS Cup for the Fire and his final trophy tally as a player is that MLS Cup and four US Open Cups. He even was able to receive a single cap for the USMNT after gaining American citizenship in 2000.

But in terms of what he’d bring to the role of Club President, he actually carries a lot of weight. Almost immediately after his retirement, Gutierrez was appointed to the Presidential Council for Physical Fitness and Sport and served under both George W Bush and Barrack Obama. He then went on to become the Head of Scouting and Player Development for the Philadelphia Union, a team that from the roots laid by his work has developed into the team in MLS to beat when it comes to its academy.

Diego Gutierrez has a doctorate in business and is a graduate professor in business. I do not doubt his ability to run the business side of a soccer team. But the important thing is his connection to the club and the supporters. It’s not just about hiring someone who can run the club like a club, it’s about someone who can get fans to buy back into the club. And Gutierrez is someone who has the qualifications to do both as a club legend with a deep connection to the fan base.