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Fire dismiss coach Raphael Wicky, but hard questions remain for Joe Mansueto and Georg Heitz

Wicky wasn’t blameless for the Fire’s issues, but other decisions have put the team in a difficult spot.

The Fire have dismissed coach Raphael Wicky.
The Fire have dismissed coach Raphael Wicky.
Courtesy of the Fire

Fire coach Raphael Wicky took the fall late Wednesday, but the people above him never gave him a chance to succeed.

Hours after a 2-0 victory against New York City FC, sources confirmed the Fire have dismissed Wicky. Twenty-eight games into his second season, the Fire were 7-15-6 and on the verge of missing the playoffs again after falling short of a generous postseason format last year.

Asked about his job security after a defeat to FC Cincinnati this season, Wicky understood why the topic came up.

‘‘There’s always pressure, and when you don’t have results, obviously, yeah, there’s not many arguments,’’ Wicky said. ‘‘The only thing I can say is that I’m here, 100% committed. I go every day to work hard. We work hard for our staff, and that’s all I can say. The question has to go to other people.’’

Those people are owner Joe Mansueto and sporting director Georg Heitz. Indeed, they both have plenty to address as another season spins out of control.

Welcomed like a conquering hero when he took control in September 2019, Mansueto’s first full season ended without a playoff berth. His second is looking like a disaster, and perhaps that can be traced to the 2019-20 offseason.

In October 2019, then-president and general manager Nelson Rodriguez said the Fire would hire an executive to handle the first team. Mansueto and Rodriguez waited until November to fire coach Veljko Paunovic, then Major League Soccer neophyte Heitz wasn’t brought aboard until Dec. 20 of that year.

Though Heitz hasn’t used his late arrival as an excuse, he was forced to act quickly to rebuild the Fire to play in a league he knew little about. His first move a week later was hiring Wicky, a former colleague at FC Basel, who had been sacked by the Swiss club in 2018 and coached the United States to a last-place finish in its group at the Under-17 World Cup in 2019.

Would the Fire be in better shape if Mansueto had acted quicker and given Heitz more time to construct a roster and find a coach? Was it a good idea to hire an executive who never had worked in MLS? The answers are debatable, but the results are clear.

That leads to one more question: Should Heitz get to pick another coach? All three of his designated players have missed, and the Fire have gone backward.

Another Heitz miss was Wicky, who wasn’t blameless. In 2020, the Fire had a playoff spot in their grasp but went winless in their last six games and never developed an ability to finish matches. But that pales by comparison to what has happened this season.

And now a franchise that hoped it was turning away from the calamitous Andrew Hauptman era is looking for a new coach again.

Wicky didn’t get enough from what he had, but he isn’t the only one who made mistakes. He’s just the only one who lost his job.