Veljko Paunović, given the heave-ho by referee Robert Sibiga against NYCFC in April, got the ultimate dismissal by the Chicago Fire. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
So much for Veljko Paunović’s tenure as Chicago Fire head coach.
The Fire sacked Paunović, the Major League Soccer club announced Wednesday. A search will begin for the next head coach.
The last two seasons were absolute disaster as the team failed to reach the playoffs. The Fire finished 10th place, 21st overall, in the Eastern Conference with an 8-18-8 record in 2018 and in eighth place in the conference, 17th overall, with a 10-12-12 mark this past season.
“Four years ago, Pauno and the staff accepted a challenge to help establish a football culture at the Fire,” Fire president and general manager Nelson Rodríguez said in a statement. “Their efforts helped revitalize the club with a competitive spirit and a dedication to always putting football first. Pauno and his staff were relentless in their devotion to the Club and for that we are immeasurably thankful.”
Paunović’s staff also was dismissed. This included assistant coaches Marko Mitrović and Eric Gehrig, goalkeeper coach Aleksandar Sarić, head strength and conditioning coach Raphael Fevre, director of performance Petar Milčanović, video analyst Nenad Babić, equipment manager Brian Sauer, assistant equipment manager Juan Arreola, head athletic trainer Reade Whitney, assistant athletic trainer Hillary Bell and massage therapist Steven Burrows.
These staff members will have the opportunity to be retained by the next head coach or for other roles within the club.
Eddie Rock, senior director of soccer operations, and Alex Boler, senior manager of team operations, will remain in their roles.
Paunović, the eighth full-time head coach in team history, guided the club to the third-best overall record (16-11-7) in MLS in 2017, securing the team’s first appearance in the MLS Cup Playoffs since 2012. He was also named head coach of the 2017 MLS all-star team.