Fire president Nelson Rodriguez downplays Chicago USL club

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Fire president and general manager Nelson Rodriguez completed the signing of attacker Nicolas Gaitan. | Chicago Fire

Fire president and general manager Nelson Rodriguez claimed he doesn’t think much about the proposed United Soccer League team in Chicago. At the very least, though, Rodriguez has thought of a snappy answer when asked about the team.

‘‘One is minor-league,’’ Rodriguez said. ‘‘We are major-league.’’

During a media gathering Wednesday, Rodriguez affirmed his support of coach Veljko Paunovic, expressed disappointment about the start of the 2018 season and said he was optimistic about the Fire’s future.

As for the Tom Ricketts-owned team that would begin play in 2021? That was a different story.

RELATED STORIES Cubs owner Tom Ricketts agrees to be part of new Chicago-based soccer team 2019 Gold Cup matches coming to Soldier Field

Asked in Spanish about the USL, Rodriguez answered in English. Rodriguez said the USL agreement has a contingency and mentioned the ‘‘lovely illustrations’’ of the Lincoln Yards stadium, though he’s not aware of any steps or approvals beyond that.

‘‘I don’t know how to respond to something that’s out there,’’ Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez praised Chicago as a sports town and said the city’s fans ‘‘appreciate’’ all sports. But he also stressed the hierarchy of franchises and where he thinks the Fire fits in compared to a USL team.

Rodriguez brought up the Forbes franchise valuation that said the Fire are worth $240 million and pointed out the ‘‘minor-league expansion fee is $3 [million] to $5 million.’’ He recalled the Fire hosting Manchester United in 2011 at Soldier Field and MLS bringing Real Madrid and the All-Star Game to Chicago last year.

‘‘If a fan wants to see a hockey game, they can go see the Wolves,’’ Rodriguez said. ‘‘If they want to see the best in hockey, they go see the Blackhawks.

‘‘If a fan wants to see a baseball game, he could go see the new Chicago Dogs. If he wants to see major-league baseball, he goes and sees the White Sox,’’ he went on, leaving out the Ricketts-owned Cubs. ‘‘‘The same is true for us. If someone wants to see the best soccer, they’re going to see Chicago Fire Soccer Club.’’

In brief

The IceHogs trail the Stars 3-0 in the AHL’s Western Conference finals after losing 6-5 in overtime Tuesday. Game 4 is Thursday in Rockford.

• By winning the Western Conference, the Golden Knights became the Wolves’ first parent club to reach the Stanley Cup

Final. Eight players have skated for both teams this season.

• The Dogs’ home opener is Friday at Impact Field in Rosemont. They will host the Kansas City T-Bones in a three-game


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