Chicago Fire receiving "overwhelming" interest in vacant head coaching position, says new GM Nelson Rodriguez

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Nelson Rodriguez has revealed he would like to have his new Chicago Fire head coach in position by Thanksgiving, but insisted “it’s about getting it right, not getting it fast.”

Speaking to the extended media for the first time before Sunday’s 2-1 defeat to Supporters’ Shield winners New York Red Bulls at Toyota Park, the Fire’s newly appointed general manager talked for 30 minutes about his ambitions for a club that just stumbled to its worst finish in 18 years in MLS.

First and foremost, his attention will turn to finding the right man to succeed former head coach Frank Yallop, who was fired in September after a tough two years in charge. According to Rodriguez, the Fire don’t have any shortage of choices as they look to restore competitiveness and relevancy to a club that has missed the playoffs in five of the last six seasons.

“I came into the process with a list of names and with some ideas. I will tell you that I may have been slightly naïve in that,” Rodriguez admitted. “The solicitations that we have received from people interested in this position is nearly overwhelming. The international standard and caliber of candidates that have expressed interest has surprised me. It speaks to how Chicago Fire is actually seen worldwide as a desirable destination for the best.”

Rodriguez, who started with the Fire on Oct. 19, has already spoken to a few candidates, with former New York Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke reportedly among them. He’s aiming to have a new hire in market by Thanksgiving.  

“In an ideal world, we would like to have a head coach in place and in market before Thanksgiving,” the former US Soccer advisor and longtime MLS executive told MLSsoccer.com. “Having said that, it’s about getting it right, not getting it fast.”

With no firm closing date for applications, the process will be ongoing until Rodriguez believes he has found the right fit for a club that is currently on its seventh head coach in nine years, including interim head coach Brian Bliss. While Rodriguez has a current list of candidates, it is possible that someone not currently in contention could become a frontrunner in the future.

“Yeah, I think so,” Rodriguez said when asked if he thought someone currently off the Fire’s radar could move into contention. “Obviously when the job became open and then when I was announced there was a flood of interest. That flood has now become a slower trickle but there’s enough candidates that it’s going to require time to do preliminary interviews, and I prefer those to be face-to-face and then secondary interviews. I would see the final list or the final candidate having to do multiple interviews.”