Veljko Paunovic Seat at Chicago Fire Scorching After Shocking Loss


veljko paunovic

There has been talk of Chicago Fire Manager Veljko Paunovic being on the hot seat for quite some time. Speculation surrounding the security of his job status has accompanied the Fire all season long, and lately we’ve seen a few results that would further strengthen the case for going in a different direction.

There have been rumors of Paunovic’s demise for some time, and that talk started to really ramp up after the inexplicable and inexcusable loss at St. Louis FC, a second division side, in the U.S. Open Cup on June 11. The Fire are still yet to win on the road, in any competition this season, and on July 6, they fell to Sporting KC, a side that’s not in the playoff picture.

That really says something, because these days, with the expanded MLS playoffs, even painfully mediocre teams are still in the running for the postseason. Before the loss to Sporting, ESPN had speculated that a draw or loss in Kansas City would seal Pauno’s fate.

Obviously, it did not, but will last night’s embarrassing result, quite possibly the worst showing of the season for the Fire now lead to the termination of his contract? The Fire lost 2-1 at home to FC Cincinnati, an expansion team in their first season of competition, bringing a -24 season goal differential to Seatgeek Stadium last night.

On June 29, Cincinnati lost 7-1 to Minnesota United, a franchise that hasn’t been around very long themselves. In other words, this is a very very bad look, and one has to wonder if/when Chicago Fire GM Nelson Rodriguez, himself an individual whose job performance is ripe for critique, will pull the Pauno plug.

veljko paunovic

Paunovic did express concern about his job security after the defeat, but not due to the CV he’s put in this year, or with the Chicago Fire overall. He just said it’s the nature of the business when you’re in his profession.

“Every day I’m concerned about my job security,” Paunovic said.

“It’s a profession where you always have to be ready for any kind of setbacks. You have to know that this is a top-flight job, and everyone is fighting for it. So I’m not concerned, I would say.”

“For me, it’s more that of I’m aware of what we are and how this profession is, but I’m absolutely confident that we’re going lift this up, that we are going to fix it.”

veljko paunovic

That next match is versus Columbus Crew, another bottom feeder, on Wednesday night at home. It will be immediately preceded by the second of three Rodriguez roundtables with the media, and the job security of Paunovic will be a hot discussion topic.

Obviously, there will be a lot of other subjects to discuss as well, with the team finally making official this past week their exit from Bridgeview. On paper, the Fire should be a top 5 team in MLS. They are top three in total payroll, and boast one of the league’s most accomplished and talented players on the pitch in Bastian Schweinsteiger.

We’ve seen what they can do when they play up to their pay grade just 11 days ago, when they routed defending champions Atlanta United in record breaking fashion. However, those showings are very few and far between.

The overall body of work is lacking under this current leadership, and the buck has to stop with both Paunovic and Rodriguez. It would be difficult to imagine both men, and almost impossible to fathom Pauno, keeping their gigs if/when the Fire fall completely out of playoff contention this season.

nelson rodriguez chicago fire

For the time being though, Paunovic is in command, and he retains a very positive attitude.

“I absolutely believe in our guys and tomorrow I’ll be here working with them, giving them support and preparing them for the next match,” he said in postgame.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC and Chicago on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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