Top Stories

Fire appoint U-20 World Cup winner Veljko Paunovic head coach

Vejko Paunovic Serbia U-20

The Chicago Fire are handing their coaching keys to the man who helped Serbia win the Under-20 World Cup this summer.

The Fire announced on Tuesday that they have appointed Veljko Paunovic as head coach. Paunovic takes over for interim boss Brian Bliss, who led the club during the final weeks of the 2015 season after replacing the fired Frank Yallop.

“In the face of stiff competition from other global soccer clubs, we are extremely fortunate to have secured our first choice, Veljko Paunovic, as our head coach,” said Fire general manager Nelson Rodríguez in a prepared statement. “We conducted a thorough search process and, over its course, Pauno consistently graded highest across all of our desired characteristics. He is a champion, teacher of the game and man of great principle and integrity.”

Paunovic, 38, has never coached a club before, but has ties to MLS. The Serbian finished his 16-year playing career by spending 2011 with the Philadelphia Union. Afterwards, he became a Serbia youth national team coach before leading the U-20s to a World Cup victory this past June.

“I want to thank (owner) Andrew Hauptman, Nelson Rodríguez and the whole executive team of the Chicago Fire, for choosing me, among other great candidates, for the coaching position,” said Paunovic in the statement. “I am very excited and enthusiastic to start working with the team, to meet the people and fans, who I know are very passionate and loyal to the club. This is the opportunity that I was looking for, to work with the right people, in the right time and the right place.”

Paunovic has a big challenge ahead of him. The Fire missed the playoffs again in 2015 after finishing in last place in the Eastern Conference with an 8-20-6 record. The club failed to win a single league game on the road and conceded a league-worst 58 goals along with New York City FC and Toronto FC.

“I love this kind of challenge, where you have to build a champion by giving your best in every moment,” said Paunovic. “I see the Chicago Fire as a hurt lion ready to unleash all its power.”


  1. I look forward to the headline: “MLS suspends operations of Chicago Fire indefinitely.”

    As a Chicago resident, this franchise just continues to alienate any semblance of a fan base. Everything is 2nd or 3rd rate. From the drive out to Bridgeview, to the product on the pitch, and including the announcers of the local broadcasts on TV. It’s absolutely dreadful.

    The entire experience still feels like MLS 1.0.

  2. I was trying to figure out why i knew this guy! He has the Serbs playing some great soccer. Maybe he can get the Fire in ship shape too

  3. Ugh. Glad I didn’t renew my season tickets keeps getting better and better. An absentee owner an absentee GM or whatever Nelson is, no name coach with limited MLS and limited coaching experience. Won’t or can’t sign a real dp. Hope the Sting return to NASL

    • Even Rinus Michels had to start somewhere. I can imagine Ajax fans saying, “Oh, not him. Sure, he worked hard, but a bit of a lug as a player. And he’s only coached at the fourth division before?” Not saying Paunovic will be next great manager, but who knows – he could be.

  4. Everyone in Philly loved him when he played for us, and he frequently was back in the area visiting with the team (clearly keeping his foot in the door). I got to talk to him a little at the draft two years ago and he seemed really level-headed and approachable. I really can’t speak to his coaching ability, but Chicago definitely got a good guy.

    • That has to hurt for Tab. A foreign, direct competitor from the u20’s. A guy who beat him in PK’s.

      Tab Ramos had a decent run in the u20 world cup. I thought that with the players they had, they could have played with better style. But considering that the team was hit with some bad injuries in the group stage and still went toe to toe with the champion, can’t complain. They lost in PK’s to the champion.

      How about Tab replacing Herzog as the u23 coach?

    • Tab Ramos prices himself out. The fire signed a coach that was a far superior youth coach than Tabare. They also got him for LESS money than Ramos who wanted way too much for s coach who hasn’t accomplished anything. Don’t get me wrong I’m underwhelmed by Borh


Leave a Comment