Ezra Hendrickson Aims For Sigi Schmid Level Success at Chicago Fire

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The Chicago Fire FC are rebuilding, yet again, as Ezra Hendrickson has now assumed managerial duties with the club. It’s his first head coaching job, anywhere, but the 49-year-old did learn from one of the best in the late great Sigi Schmid, the all-time leader in MLS wins.

“My mentor, Sigi Schmid, one thing he said to me was, wherever you go, fill the trophy case, and that’s one thing we plan to do,” Hendrickson told the media at his first CFFC press conference today.

There will certainly be no small feat, when you consider how the club has not won a trophy of any kind since 2006. And in a league where mediocre and worse teams routinely make the postseason, Chicago still hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2017.

Hendrickson knows it’s going to be a long climb uphill.

“I think we have a good foundation, a good core group of players,” Hendrickson said. “There are going to be some growing pains, but we’ll get this thing right eventually.”

Ezra Hendrickson has won 15 trophies as a player and assistant coach in Major League Soccer. Schmid won two MLS Cups, four Open Cups and two MLS Coach of the Year awards.

When asked about what he takes from Schmid, Hendrickson said “I take a lot of from each one (of my mentors), but at the end of the day, it’s what I’ve learned, but also my own style and philosophy.”

Club Sporting Director Georg Heitz describe Ezra Hendrickson as “a great football mind, a bit obsessed like many of us, which is what we need.”

When asked to define what success looks like this season he said “of course we want to make the playoffs…because without the playoffs, it’s not even worth starting training in January.”

Heitz said Hendrickson was one of just three finalists for the gig, stating that one of the questions he asked himself, while going through the process was this: “could this guy motivate me as a player.”

Typically, introductory press conferences don’t provide much in terms of actual news and today’s session was basically no different, except we learned that Jonathan Bornstein will return to the club next season. No matter who the manager is, the Fire still have a lot to do in terms of roster rebuild.

You can’t really point to a single specific individual player as being a big time star right now, someone who will draw people to the stadium en masse or sell kits.

Hendrickson spoke highly of the potential resources that club owner Joe Mansueto may provide, commenting “if you don’t have that kind of backing, it can be difficult.”

And while he did use the phrase “growing pains” several times today, the St. Martin and the Grenadines native also expressed a lot of optimism.

“Maybe it’s just from being Caribbean, we have a positive attitude,” he said.

“I would say to the detractors, show up to the games, starting in February, and you will no longer be a detractor…if you win, people will get excited and show up to the games.”

Today is the kind of day when it’s easy to have that kind level of optimism, but when the rubber meets the road, it could prove to be quite a major challenge. The Fire need a lot more right now than just a new manager.

The good news for Ezra Hendrickson is that he doesn’t have to do a whole to convey major progress. Winning a trophy, yes, just one trophy, sometime soon would give the long success starved fan base a lot of positive vibes to cling to.

And he doesn’t have to wait too long to get his program into place.

Chicago Fire FC training camp for 2022 will be here in just a few weeks.

Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Bank (TheSportsBank.Net) and author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” as well as “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”

He has regularly appeared in WGNSports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune, and co-hosts the After Extra Time podcastFollow him on Twitter and Instagram

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