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- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines footballer
The Chicago Fire made Ezra Hendrickson’s hiring official Wednesday, naming him the 10th coach in team history.
News broke last week that the Fire were close to reaching an agreement with Hendrickson. Terms of the deal were not announced, but it’s believed to be for two years with a team option.
A longtime presence in Major League Soccer as a player and assistant coach, Hendrickson joins the Fire from the Columbus Crew staff and replaces Raphael Wicky, who was fired in late September after less than two seasons in charge.
In what should be a busy offseason for the Fire, who parted with nine players after the regular-season finale, Hendrickson’s hiring is the first major step as the club embarks on a second rebuild since the end of the 2019 season.
“He is a very well-respected coach who has had a highly successful career in MLS,” Fire sporting director Georg Heitz said in a statement. “Ezra has worked in winning environments alongside some of the most accomplished managers in the league, and we are confident that he is the right person to help us achieve our goals.”
Having MLS experience was something the Fire targeted in searching for Wicky’s replacement.
Hendrickson, 49, was among double-digit candidates they interviewed for the position on a list that included Sporting Kansas City II coach Paulo Nagamura and Los Angeles FC assistant Ante Razov, the Fire’s all-time leader in goals.
Hendrickson has spent more than 25 years in the league — 12 as a player and 13 as an assistant coach — and has won 15 major trophies in that time, including several MLS Cups and Supporters’ Shields. Additionally, the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines native played and coached for his country in international competition.
Hendrickson’s tenure as an assistant coach came under the guidance of some of the league’s most successful clubs and managers. He was an assistant on Sigi Schmid’s staffs with the Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy and on Caleb Porter’s Crew staff.
The Fire haven’t qualified for the postseason since 2017 and will be leaning on Hendrickson’s lengthy MLS experience to help the club return to its former glory. Under the guidance of Heitz and technical director Sebastian Pelzer, the Fire went 5-10-8 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and 9-18-7 in 2021.
“To the Fire faithful, I know that we have a great deal of work ahead of us to get the club back to its days of MLS dominance,” Hendrickson said in a statement. “It will not be easy, but I know that your continued support of our club will be necessary and appreciated by myself, the players and the staff.
“I’m a big believer that a team’s identity should align with the reputation of the city it represents. When I think of Chicago, I think of hard-working, successful people and that is the identity this team will adopt. We will always give you our best efforts and make you proud to wear the Fire colors.”
The Fire said Hendrickson’s staff will be named at a later date. Assistants Frank Klopas and Adin Brown remained on staff after Wicky’s firing.