Sporting director Georg Heitz hoping for Fire return

Under Heitz, whose contract runs out at the end of the season, the Fire missed the 2020 and 2021 playoffs and need to rally to make the 2022 postseason.

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20220709_XherdanShaqiri.jpg

Xherdan Shaqiri is the splashiest acquisition by Fire sporting director Georg Heitz.

Courtesy of the Fire

Fire owner Joe Mansueto wants sporting director Georg Heitz to return next season.

Heitz would like that, too.

‘‘When it comes to my future, look, I truly care about this club,’’ Heitz said Wednesday. ‘‘I think I may say this: I love this job, for sure, and I have a really, really great relationship with our owner. I will not publicly hold any talks now. I think you can understand this. But, yes, I would like to return, and I’m sure that we will find a way there.’’

Under Heitz, whose contract expires at the end of the season, the Fire missed the playoffs in 2020 and 2021 and will need to rally to make the postseason this year. He has had his share of hits, notably winger Chris Mueller, defender Rafael Czichos, midfielder Federico Navarro and former goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth. As the record shows, however, Heitz’s misses have been costly, including one this past offseason on striker Kacper Przybylko and the rushed, failed choice of former coach Raphael Wicky.

Heitz’s record on designated players, the most important acquisitions for an MLS team, is also sketchy. Striker Robert Beric backed up a strong 2020 by going into a seasonlong funk in 2021 and was dumped. Winger Ignacio Aliseda was transferred to Swiss partner club FC Lugano to get him off the Fire’s payroll and open a designated-player slot.

The current crop of designated players also has been hit-and-miss, especially considering the money spent on attacker Xherdan Shaqiri and midfielder Gaston Gimenez.

‘‘Yeah, it’s the never-ending discussion about salaries,’’ Heitz said. ‘‘Salaries, you pay a salary because a player has a certain market value. You pay possibly a salary because the player was already on a certain salary. You pay a salary to lure a player to come to your club. So I think you cannot measure this directly.’’

When healthy, Shaqiri has been effective in the middle of the Fire’s attack, though his availability has been an issue. Gimenez, who was acquired the same offseason as Beric and Aliseda, was brought back on a new contract, despite an underwhelming 2021, and continues to divide opinion on whether his role deep in the midfield is worth the money. The third designated player, winger Jairo Torres, was already injured when he joined the Fire from Mexican club Atlas and generally has been anonymous when he has played.

When he was asked about his three designated players, Heitz sounded pleased with their output.

‘‘Pretty happy with all three of them,’’ Heitz said. ‘‘All of them can do better, as any player can always do better, but pretty happy with them.’’

Heitz wouldn’t say whether he was happy with his own performance, but he did praise coach Ezra Hendrickson. He said the first-year coach has changed the Fire’s mentality and brought a winning spirit, commending Hendrickson for staying calm during the team’s 10-game winless streak.

‘‘He is very clear in his instructions,’’ Heitz said. ‘‘He is creative when it comes to his speeches in front of the players. I think he gives the players a lot of confidence, and every player should know what he’s got to do.

‘‘For all of us — and I’m the first one who has to improve — all of us have to try to improve daily.’’

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