Fire president Nelson Rodriguez steps down

Unpopular with the fans, Rodriguez leaves behind a checkered legacy with the Fire.

SHARE Fire president Nelson Rodriguez steps down
Club president Nelson Rodriguez has resigned from the Fire.

Club president Nelson Rodriguez has resigned from the Fire.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

Fire president Nelson Rodriguez, perhaps the most notable leftover from the Andrew Hauptman era, resigned Monday.

According to a source, chief operating officer John Urban is serving as interim president and would be considered for the job if he’s interested. The team will use a search firm to find Rodriguez’s successor, a source confirmed.

Originally hired by the hugely unpopular Hauptman in September 2015 as general manager, Rodriguez was elevated to president in January 2018 while keeping the GM position. In December 2019, three months after Joe Mansueto bought out Hauptman, Rodriguez shifted exclusively to the business side when Georg Heitz was hired as sporting director. 

“I began discussing my future with Joe Mansueto last month,” Rodriguez said in a news release. “At this transformational time for the organization . . . I’m ready for a change, and I’m looking forward to taking on new challenges.’’

Not a fan favorite, Rodriguez leaves behind a checkered legacy. His 2018 banishment of Sector Latino led to supporter protests. He was also front and center on what turned out to be a failed rebrand and helped broker the 2018 deal that put games exclusively on the ESPN+ streaming service before the pact was renegotiated to simultaneously air games on WGN in 2020. 

Brought in to clean up the mess left by Frank Yallop, Rodriguez hired Veljko Paunovic as coach. The transitional 2016 team finished last before a 2017 renaissance with Bastian Schweinsteiger saw the Fire finish third in MLS before a first-round playoff exit. The 2018 team regressed, and the pricey 2019 group fell short of the postseason again, increasing the scrutiny on Rodriguez and Paunovic. 

NOTE: MLS announced the regular season is scheduled to start April 3, with teams -allowed to open training camps Feb. 22. Those dates are pending the status of the collective-bargaining agreement, which is being negotiated.

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