New Chicago Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez is building a team his way.
It might seem a little boring right now. He knows that.
He doesn’t care.
It’s his neck on the line and if he is going to turn things around, he has to do it the way he sees fit.
A lot of players that he is bringing to the United States to kick the ball around are not huge names. He is taking a practical approach to molding this team and big headlines are not what he is going for when signing guys.
“Constructing this team is a marathon,” he said. “It’s more important to us to pursue our targets as we have them prioritized. At the end of the day, what the fan will remember long-term is whether you won or lost and how you played in those games. It’s easy to go for a public relations’ splash. That might excite some people in the short term. But as soon as they get on the field, that PR splash is forgotten.
“Our fans deserve a winner and we’re committed to build a winner. The sex-appeal and the sizzle will come later.’’
How much later?
Trying to scoop up a handful of mercury might be easier than to pin down sports officials on timelines these days.
In recent years, coaches and general managers have been burned when predicting a timeline for the return of an injured star athlete so most of them have just given up.
It’s the same way when it comes to the timeline of building a winner.
In the last six seasons, the local pro soccer club has missed the playoffs five times. In that span the team has twice more losses and ties (138) than wins (63).
Rodriguez and coach Veljko Paunovic have been busy wheeling and dealing to try to bring a winning product to Bridgeview’s Toyota Park when the MLS season opens on March 6.
There are going to be a lot of new faces on this club and I have a hunch that getting to the playoffs might not be in the works this year. My timeline for that type of success is 2017 or 2018.
But these two are not using a timeline.
Rodriguez is already using the dreaded p-word – patience.
“Give us a chance to put our plan into action,” he said. “Then be a little patient as it starts to unfold.’’
Just like Cubs fans have to be patient?
“God bless the Cubs fan. God bless any one of them who has lived that long since their last championship,’’ Rodriguez said. “Look, I’m realistic. I won’t be here if it takes too long. I understand that and accept that. It’s about a 34-game season and hopefully making the playoff and building from there. It’s a process that is ongoing.’’
Process – that other p-word.
Paunovic knows that one, too.
“It’s a process,” he said. “We want to be ready from the start. We want to be ready to play with heart and character and always want to win. If we do that on the field, I know the fans will be very happy with that.
“I’m sure that on March 6, we will be ready to do that. We are not saying we will win everything but I want to be clear that we will always give our best in every game.’’
Will their best be good enough to reverse the recent trend?
Probably not yet.
But if Rodriguez is getting the right ingredients from abroad -- sexy or not -- and the team can develop some players on its lowers levels, it might not be long before the Fire is playing postseason soccer again.