Photo by ISIphotos.com
Juan Carlos Osorio will be making his first trip back to Toyota Park since leaving the Chicago Fire to take over as coach of the New York Red Bulls and the reception for him isn’t likely to be a warm one.
There may not be a more hated man in MLS among Fire fans than Osorio, who left Chicago after just a half season in charge. That lingering animosity should lead to an interesting reception for him when he arrives at the stadium on Saturday.
That likelihood isn’t something that bothers Osorio, who believes he left the Fire in better shape than he found the club.
"That comes with the territory," Osorio said. "Fans are entitled to their opinions but I helped that club move forward. We turned things around and were one game away from the final."
Osorio doesn’t expect to have too many emotions about his first game at Toyota Park since last year’s win against D.C. United in the playoffs.
"I’m not a sentimental guy," Osorio said. "I’m passionate about what I do but there won’t be any different emotions about this game.
"It’s a huge game because it’s the next game and it’s a game against a team above us in the standings," Osorio said. "The team just happens to be Chicago."
Osorio did have positive things to say about his brief experience in Chicago, an experience that ended when the Red Bulls and Fire reached an agreement to let Osorio leave Chicago and coach the Red Bulls last winter.
"It was a great experience," Osorio said of his time as Fire coach. "I have said in the past that I will always be thankful to the club for giving me the opportunity to come back and coach in MLS
"The players, the coaching staff, the front office and the fans were a really supportive club and were behind our push to make the playoffs (last year) and fortunately that goal was accomplished."
The kind words aren’t likely to soften the reaction Fire fans will have for the coach some felt betrayed the club by leaving so soon, especially considering Osorio became the second Fire coach to leave the club to join the New York franchise (Bob Bradley being the first).
When asked about the possibility of being booed by the fans that cheered him less than a year ago, Osorio didn’t sound too concerned.
"I’ve been at games where you have had coaches being cursed and yelled at for 90 minutes and if that’s what happens then I’m ready," Osorio said. "My focus will be on the game."
While Osorio’s return to Chicago, and the animosity surrounding that, will make things interesting, it won’t have as much impact on the match as the several player absences due to national team duty. The Fire will be without star playmaker Cuauhtemoc Blanco (Mexico) and left back Gonzalo Segares (Costa Rica), while the Red Bulls will be without their playmaker, Jorge Rojas (Venezuela), as well as defender Andrew Boyens (New Zealand). The Red Bulls won’t be sad to see Blanco and Segares missing after the pivotal roles both played in Chicago’s 5-1 thrashing of the Red Bulls earlier this season.
So what are you expecting from Saturday’s match? Will Osorio be greeted by a chorus of boos? Will the Fire beat the Red Bulls a second straight time? Can the Red Bulls maintain their unbeaten run?
Share your thoughts below.