CHICAGO – He was hired in November of 2015 as the man to help turn around the fortunes of the franchise as part of a major rebuild for the Major League Soccer club.
After three seasons, the Chicago Fire still believe that Veljko Paunovic is still the person to make that happen on the pitch.
On Thursday the club announced that the head coach’s contract was extended two years with the option for a third as they hope Paunovic can help lead the team back to the top of the MLS.
“We believe the foundation we are setting and the standards we are demanding are the right ones in developing our championship program,” said Fire President and General Manager Nelson Rodriguez in a statement released by the club. “Continuity is a critical element in that process and retaining Pauno for the next few years as a leader in that effort was an important off-season objective.”
Paunovic took over the team in November of 2015 and has an overall record 31-46-25 in three season. The highlight of his tenure was the 2017 campaign when the Fire were one of the surprise teams in the MLS thanks to the additions of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Nemanja Nikolic. They spent a good amount of the season near the top of the Eastern Conference, and their 16-11-7 record put them in the MLS Playoffs for the first time since 2012.
The team fell off in 2018, going 8-18-8 and finishing well out of the playoffs. Yet today the franchise rewarded Paunovic for his work done while also announcing that his entire staff will be retained for the 2018 season.
“I feel excited about this project as I was the very first day three years ago when I became a part of the Chicago Fire Football family,” said Paunovic in a statement released by the club. “I’m also very grateful for this new opportunity with the club and the values that I’m fully aligned and committed to representing in every city and field around the globe and US. I want to thank our fans for their passion, support and their devotion.
“My special thanks go for our ownership and GM Nelson Rodriguez who have been giving us the direction and all their support in good and bad times. It’s all about the conviction, trust, and unity. Get ready to lift the trophy this year.”
Thursday’s move by the Fire shows they believe that Paunovic is the head coach to get that done.