New coach Ezra Hendrickson takes winning pedigree to FireBrian Sandalowon November 29, 2021 at 11:48 pm

New Fire coach Ezra Hendrickson, right, shakes hands with sporting director Georg Heitz during a Monday news conference. | Courtesy of the Fire

Formally introduced as the team’s 10th full-time coach, Hendrickson joins the Fire after working for some of the league’s best coaches, including Sigi Schmid, Brian Schmetzer and Caleb Porter.

Ezra Hendrickson has worked for some of the best coaches in MLS history. The Fire hope he can apply what he’s learned to eventually make them a winner again.

Formally introduced at a Monday news conference as the team’s 10th full-time coach, Hendrickson joins the Fire after spending time with many of the model franchises in MLS, most recently the Columbus Crew. That means he’s been employed by a sampling of the league’s championship coaches, including the late Sigi Schmid, Seattle’s Brian Schmetzer and Columbus’ Caleb Porter.

“These are guys who have been very successful and won championships in the league and been leaders of very successful clubs,” Hendrickson said. “I’ll take a lot from each one of them but at the end of the day, it’s going to be what I’ve learned compounded with what I bring to the table as far as a coach and my style and my philosophy that’s going to lead this team going forward.”

Hendrickson is used to winning. More of that would help the Fire as they try to build excitement in their franchise in a crowded sports market.

“Being successful is going to bring people to the stadium and keep them coming back to the stadium, and that’s our focus going forward with this team is to be very successful and get our fans back to being engaged with this team and lifting trophies,” Hendrickson said. “My biggest mentor, Sigi Schmid, that was one thing he always said is, “fill the trophy case. Wherever you go, fill the trophy case.” And that’s something that we plan to do here in Chicago.”

That might not be overnight, however.

Hendrickson conceded there might be some growing pains, and that the roster could use more leadership to bolster a franchise that’s invested in Homegrown players. A day after the last game, sporting director Georg Heitz and the Fire said goodbye to nine players, signalling another rebuild this offseason.

When Heitz was asked what success looks like for the 2022 season, he paused for a couple seconds before answering.

“I feel like every year, I say the same thing, but of course we want to make the playoffs,” Heitz said. “Of course. Because otherwise, we do not even need to start training in January. We want to make the playoffs.”

With Hendrickson, the Fire don’t expect to hesitate when asked that in the future.

NOTE: After Hendrickson implied it, Heitz said “you can be sure” veteran defender Jonathan Bornstein will return to the Fire next season. Bornstein, 37, is currently out of contract.

As for the options on Designated Player Gaston Gimenez and defender Wyatt Omsberg, Heitz said he “wouldn’t want this to be a media conference about our roster.”

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