The Chicago Fire Friday named Raphael Wicky as its new head coach.
Wicky, who suceeds Veljko Paunovic, is the ninth full-time head coach in club history. He most recently directed the U.S. Under-17 men’s national team that could not get out of its group at the recent FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Chicago (10-12-12) finished eighth in the Eastern Conference and 17th overall in Major League Soccer.
“I am honored and proud to be named the head coach of Chicago Fire FC,” Wicky said in a statemnt. “This is a position that comes with a lot of responsibility and I can promise the fans and everyone at the club that I will work hard and give my all. During conversations with [owner] Joe Mansueto and [sporting director] Georg Heitz, I felt that we all shared a similar vision for the club and how to move it forward. That was important to me. Chicago is a world-class sports city and this club has a bright future, both on and off the field. I can’t wait to get started.”
The former Swiss international brings 27 years of experience as a player and coach in Germany, Spain, Switzerland and the United States.
The 42-year-old transitioned into coaching shortly after his playing career ended. His first head coaching job came at Swiss club Servette FC before moving to one of Europe’s top youth systems at FC Basel, leading the U-18, U-19 and U-21 sides to success before taking the helm of the first team in 2017. Wicky guided the senior squad at Basel, one of Switzerland’s most successful clubs, to the UEFA Champions League Round of 16, the best Champions League result in Swiss history. In that competition, Basel defeated some of Europe’s biggest clubs, including Manchester City, Manchester United and Benfica.
“I know Raphael very well from our time together at FC Basel in Switzerland,” Heitz said. “He is a man of high character who fits the philosophy and vision of this Club. He has a fresh, modern approach to football. Raphael has a great appreciation and respect for the sport and because of his time on the pitch, including representing his country at a World Cup, he is able to communicate extremely well with players. Raphael, who is familiar with Chicago, has always wanted to coach in MLS. Since he arrived in the U.S. and played here, he has become a student, learning about and studying MLS and what it takes to be successful in this League. We’re thrilled that he will be our new head coach.”