Resignation of Nelson Rodriguez moves Fire further from Andrew Hauptman
Rodriguez turned out to be his last big swing at rebuilding a franchise that had crumbled under the watch of the deeply unpopular Hauptman.
When the Fire announced the resignation of Nelson Rodriguez on Monday, it was the end of a memorable and chaotic five-year period for the franchise.
Rodriguez’s departure also marked another major move away from the Andrew Hauptman era and a chance for owner Joe Mansueto to give the franchise another boost.
Rodriguez, who was brought in during the end of a miserable 2015 season after the dismissal of Frank Yallop, started as the team’s general manager. He then added the title of president in 2018, and he had more power than anybody in the organization outside of ownership until December 2019.
For Hauptman, Rodriguez turned out to be his last big swing at rebuilding a franchise that had crumbled under his watch. A well-traveled and well-known executive in the U.S. soccer landscape,the hope was that Rodriguez would use that experience to get the Fire back on track.
“From the moment I met Nelson, I knew he was the right leader for the club,” Hauptman said in a January 2018 statement when Rodriguez added the title of president. “Over the past several years, he has created an exceptional foundation and culture for a top-tier club, on and off the field.”
When Rodriguez was with the Fire there were some positives, such as the 2017 playoff team, the move to Soldier Field, and the successful effort to rid Fire games of a homophobic chant. There were also the negatives, such as the underwhelming results on the field, plummeting attendance and the declining relationship with fans.
The franchise, though, appears to be making progress off the field.
Chief operating officer John Urban, hired at the same time Rodriguez was named president, is serving as interim president. If Urban is eventually bumped up to president, he would not be overseeing the soccer side of the business like Rodriguez did before the arrival of Georg Heitz in late 2019.
Whether it’s Urban or somebody else replacing Rodriguez, that choice will ultimately be made by Mansueto. Since taking over in the fall of 2019, Mansueto has done a lot (and spent a lot) to change the franchise. He also has lofty aspirations for the club, such as his stated goal of drawing 25,000 fans per game to Soldier Field in 2020, which was never tested because of COVID-19.
Some of the moves, such as the switch to WGN and notable increases in marketing have been undoubtedly positives, though the 2019 rebrand was a flop and the 2020 on-field product failed.
Regardless of the logo snafu and the unclear on-field progress, Mansueto gives the Fire a higher ceiling than they had with Hauptman.
The next president, even if it’s an in-house promotion that originally joined the staff during the previous ownership, will move the Fire even further away from Hauptman.