Despite a disappointing 2018 campaign, coach Veljko Paunovic will be back with the Chicago Fire next season.
The Fire announced Thursday that they signed Paunovic to a two-year contract extension with a club option to extend the deal for a third season. Per league and team policy, contract details were not disclosed.
The Fire also said there will be no changes to Paunovic’s coaching staff.
The news of Paunovic’s extension comes just over one month after the club answered one of its biggest offseason questions by re-signing German soccer legend Bastian Schweinsteiger for another season.
In his first three seasons with the Fire, Paunovic has a 31-46-25 regular-season record. In 2017, he led the club to the third-highest regular-season point total (55) in the MLS, which secured the Fire’s first appearance in the MLS Cup Playoffs since 2012. Paunovic was also the coach of the 2017 MLS All-Star team, which featured four Fire players, including Schweinsteiger.
But last season, the Fire struggled to build off their success from 2017 and finished 10th in the Eastern Conference.
The down season didn’t deter Fire president and general manager Nelson Rodriguez from offering Paunovic another chance at bringing the Fire back to the postseason.
“We believe the foundation we are setting and the standards we are demanding are the right ones in developing our championship program,” Rodriguez said in a statement. “Continuity is a critical element in that process and retaining Pauno for the next few years as a leader in that effort was an important off-season objective.”
Paunovic, who managed the Serbian Youth National Teams (U-18, U-19 and U-20) for four seasons before joining the Fire on Nov. 24, 2015, said in a statement that he’s “grateful for this new opportunity with the club.” He also thanked the Fire for supporting him through the hardships.
“It’s all about the conviction, trust, and unity,” Paunovic said. “Get ready to lift the trophy this year.”