One of the last remaining MLS head coaching vacancies has just been filled, but in in the process that move has also led to the creation of yet another coaching vacancy in the U.S. youth national team ranks.
The Chicago Fire have hired Raphael Wicky as the team’s new head coach. Wicky has most recently been head coach of the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team, which he was in charge of at the Under-17 World Cup, where the Americans finished with three losses in group play.
Wicky, 42, takes over for Veljko Paunovic, who was let go after four seasons in charge of the Fire. Paunovic compiled a 41-58-37 record during that time, leading the Fire to the playoffs in just one of those seasons, a season that ended abruptly with an ugly playoff loss after a late-season swoon.
Wicky takes over a Fire team in transition, with plenty of salary cap space to work with, but plenty of voids to fill. Bastian Schweinsteiger’s retirement, Dax McCarty’s departure and the need to revamp a terrible defense will give Wicky and newly-appointed sporting director Georg Heitz plenty to work on in the coming weeks to try and improve a Fire team that finished in eighth place in the Eastern Conference in 2019.
The Fire made sweeping changes following the sale of the club to new owner Joe Mansueto, who is moving the Fire back to Soldier Field after buying out the team’s lease at long-time home Toyota Park. Mansueto
Wicky’s move to the Fire also leaves another vacancy in the U.S. men’s youth national team ranks. Tab Ramos’ departure to the Houston Dynamo, coupled with Wicky’s departure, leaves U.S. Soccer needing a new U-20 and U-17 coach, with current U.S. Under-23 coach Jason Kreis serving in a part-time capacity as he juggles his roll as Inter Miami’s senior academy director.
Wicky helped lead the U.S. Under-17 to the Under-17 World Cup after losing to Mexico in the Concacaf final, but the Under-17 World Cup was a forgettable experience for Wicky and the Americans, who were ousted after losing all three of their group stage matches.