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New coach Ezra Hendrickson brings winning pedigree to Fire

Formally introduced as the team’s 10th full-time coach, Hendrickson joins the Fire after working for some of the league’s best coaches, including Sigi Schmid, Brian Schmetzer and Caleb Porter.

New Fire coach Ezra Hendrickson, right, shakes hands with sporting director Georg Heitz during a Monday news conference.
Courtesy of the Fire

Ezra Hendrickson has worked for some of the best coaches in Major League Soccer history. The Fire hope he can apply what he has learned to make them a winner again.

Hendrickson, who formally was introduced as the team’s 10th full-time coach at a news conference Monday, joins the Fire after spending time with many of the model franchises in MLS, most recently the Crew. That means he has been employed by a sampling of MLS’ championship coaches, including the late Sigi Schmid, the Sounders’ Brian Schmetzer and the Crew’s Caleb Porter.

‘‘These are guys who have been very successful and won championships in the league and been leaders of very successful clubs,’’ Hendrickson said. ‘‘I’ll take a lot from each one of them. But at the end of the day, it’s going to be what I’ve learned [along] with what I bring to the table as a coach and my style and my philosophy that’s going to lead this team going forward.’’

Hendrickson is used to winning. More of that would help the Fire as they try to build excitement about their franchise in a crowded sports market.

‘‘Being successful is going to bring people to the stadium and keep them coming back to the stadium,’’ he said. ‘‘Our focus going forward with this team is to be very successful and get our fans back to being engaged with this team and lifting trophies.

‘‘My biggest mentor, Sigi Schmid, that was one thing he always said is: ‘Fill the trophy case. Wherever you go, fill the trophy case.’ And that’s something that we plan to do here in Chicago.’’

That might not happen overnight, however.

Hendrickson conceded that there might be some growing pains and that the roster could use more leadership to bolster a franchise that has invested in Homegrown players. A day after the last game, sporting director Georg Heitz and the Fire said goodbye to nine players, signaling another rebuild this offseason.

When Heitz was asked what success looks like for the 2022 season, he paused for a couple of seconds before answering.

‘‘I feel like every year I say the same thing,’’ he said. ‘‘But, of course, we want to make the playoffs. Because otherwise we do not even need to start training in January. We want to make the playoffs.’’

NOTE: After new coach Ezra Hendrickson implied it, sporting director Georg Heitz confirmed veteran defender Jonathan Bornstein will return to the Fire next season. Bornstein, 37, isn’t under contract right now.

As for the options on designated player Gaston Gimenez and defender Wyatt Omsberg, Heitz said he ‘‘wouldn’t want this to be a media conference about our roster.’’