Chicago Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez is not shirking criticism for the team's disappointing 2018 season. In fact, he's the first to hold himself accountable.
After an impressive 2017, the Fire's encore didn't live up to expectations. The club finished 10th in the Eastern Conference, 18 points below the playoff line, and Rodriguez blames himself.
"I like to view myself and think of myself as disciplined," Rodriguez told ExtraTime Radio from the MLS Combine. "I think a lot of the issues we had were the results of the roster which I'm chiefly responsible for and I have to look at. Was that just circumstance of being disciplined or was I obstinate? I need to change and I'm still going through that process. I'm still trying to figure out is our valuation system just inaccurate? I keep saying, 'Wow, that seems like too much money,' but at the end of the day, you need players, you need a good roster."
Rodriguez is taking steps to remedy that malaise this offseason.
The Fire have already added Brazilian center back Marcelo from Sporting CP, re-signed Bastian Schweinsteiger and selected striker Marco Urena in the Waiver Draft. More reinforcements are incoming as Rodriguez promises the club are "deep in negotiations" with at least three players. For now, though, the focus is on fixing a defense that conceded 61 goals last season.
"We have struggled defensively so our focus continues on the spine," Rodriguez said. "We've added Marcelo, a center back who has a lot of experience who we think will adapt well to our game model and to the league. We need at least one other center back, even if we bring back Johan [Kappelhof] just for reasons of competition and depth. We would very much like to try to bring in a No. 10, someone who can serve as that link can provide that final ball because we also know that if we deliver the ball to [Nemanja Nikolic], we're going to continue to score goals. So are we close."
Another big decision Rodriguez made was inking head coach Veljko Paunovic to a multiyear contract. He defends that decision by asserting the Serb can be a competitive edge for the club.
"I imagine that some fans were displeased with bringing back Pauno," Rodriguez acknowledged. "I think their ire should be directed at me, not at him. I think Pauno can be a competitive edge: He's an incredible recruiter. When we speak to players they want to come, they want to play for him. Schweinsteiger was hoping Pauno would come back and wanted to continue to play for Pauno."
Listen to the full Nelson Rodriguez interview below