General manager Peter Wilt sees good things in the Chicago Fire's future.
Chicago Fire

GM Peter Wilt's letter to Fire fans

Dear Fire Fans,

We set out this season to win one more game than we did in 2003. We did not do that. We did not provide you with a winner and we were one of only two teams that did not even make the playoffs. In short, we failed you. Like you, we have expectations that the Fire will compete for two trophies every year. While we made it to overtime in the final of the U.S. Open Cup this year, we let you and ourselves down with our MLS regular season results.

There are plenty of reasons for the poor results, none of which excuse us. We have won as a group in the past and this year we lost as a group. We will review the performances of everyone in the organization, including the coaching staff, the players, the team staff and me.

This season had similarities to the frustrating 2002 season. This year we lost many players for long stretches to injuries (Chris Armas, Jesse Marsch, Ante Razov, Justin Mapp and Logan Pause), national team call up (Andy Herron, Andy Williams, Dipsy Selolwane and Damani Ralph) and Europe (DaMarcus Beasley, Carlos Bocanegra, Zach Thornton). We did not do a good enough job building a deep enough team to overcome the loss of those 12 players.

We will examine what we should have done better and implement a plan to make sure we never have this awful feeling again. We are committed to doing a better job next season. I believe we are positioned to build a team that will compete for the MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup championships next season as evidenced by the following:

  • We have a very strong core of returning players.
  • Our salary budget is in much better shape than it was after the 2002 season when we were forced to move four All-Stars.
  • Reinforcements are coming. We have three allocations and two first round draft picks.
  • We anticipate being able to sign 22-year-old Brazilian midfielder Thiago Gaucho with a 2005 discovery and Honduran national team defender Samuel Caballero with the Bocanegra allocation. Samuel is 29 years old and played the last three years in Italy's Serie A and Serie B with Udinese.
  • We also plan on exercising the option to bring back Costa Rican national team forward Andy Herron for next season.
  • We will try to use the expansion draft to provide opportunities to make deals to improve the roster, while at the same time recognizing that we are likely to lose three players.

    Off the field we did accomplish many wonderful things thanks to your support:

  • The Fire successfully relocated our home venue by 40 miles.
  • The Fire worked with the Village of Bridgeview to plan a $70 million home of our own starting in the spring of 2006.
  • The Fire hosted three successful international double-headers.
  • The Fire increased our attendance significantly and averaged more than 17,000 fans per game.
  • The Fire expanded our youth development system to Michigan and Wisconsin. Chicago Fire Juniors is now the largest competitive club in Illinois with 1,000 members plus 2,000 in its recreational program. Fire ' s Academy camps doubled in size this year to nearly 1,000 participants and its Chicago Fire MLS Camps were attended by more than 5,000 children.
  • The Fire's affiliated PDL team, Chicago Fire Reserves completed the regular season undefeated.
  • Fire merchandise sales remained among the league leaders for the 7th straight season.
  • The Fire were honored with the special Community Challenge Award by the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame for our handling of the move to North Central College.
  • The FireWorks For Kids Foundation generated nearly $300,000.

    While we did accomplish a lot in 2004, we have an important 18-month build-up towards the opening of America's Soccer Home in Bridgeview in the spring of 2006. None of these accomplishments could have been made without your support. We are grateful and committed to return the Fire to championship form in 2005.

    Thank you for your continued support.

    Best Regards,

    Peter J. Wilt
    General Manager