The Chicago Fire announced on Tuesday that sporting director Georg Heitz and technical director Sebastian Pelzer would be back for the 2024 season after both signed a contract extension.
“I’m pleased that Georg and Sebastian will continue to lead our sporting operations,” said Chicago Fire owner Joe Mansueto in a statement. “As we continue working toward building a world-class organization deeply connected to the community, Georg and his team have created a strong foundation that will lead to sustained success.
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“Our fans deserve to support a team that is a consistent contender for trophies, and heading into the 2024 season, we are all committed to taking the necessary steps to bring more success to the Chicago Fire.”
The decision to bring back Heitz has drawn a mixed to negative reaction from pundits and fans alike considering during Heitz’s four-year tenure, the Fire failed to reach the playoffs in all four seasons.
“I’m excited to continue leading the Chicago Fire, and I’d like to thank Joe Mansueto for his trust and support,” said Heitz. “Despite falling short of our collective goal to qualify for the playoffs, we have made improvements and professionalized the organization in multiple areas to be consistently competitive in the coming seasons and over the long term.
“We are confident that by adding the right pieces, we will be a strong contender in the Eastern Conference next season and become a team that brings more success and joy to our fans each week.”
Heitz track record doesn’t lend itself to that confidence.
In addition to the poor results on the pitch, the players that have been brought to the team, particularly the Designated Players, have left much to be desired. There have been more hits than misses with Xherdan Shaqiri arguably being the most productive if not inconsistent.
In the press release, the club highlighted the transfers of Gabriel Slonina and John Durán, both sold to Premier League clubs, Chelsea and Aston Villa, respectively. That’s all well and good for the status of the Chicago Fire but it didn’t translate to wins.
Usually a sporting director, as well as a head coach, is defined by the team’s results. What makes the extension even more surprising is the fact the playoff format was expanded, allowing more teams to make the playoffs. Nine out of the 15 teams in the Eastern Conference made the playoffs and the Fire still managed to be on the outside looking in.
The standings might reflect the Fire were only three points from a playoff spot and while some might point at progress the fact the Fire were still it on the last day of the season, looks can be deceiving.
When more than half the teams in each conference make the playoffs, missing out becomes a much bigger disappointment. Especially when you have the fifth highest payroll in the league.