The Chicago Fire reportedly fired head coach Veljko Paunović on Wednesday.
Paunović, 42, compiled a 41-58-37 record over four seasons with the Fire, who narrowly missed the 2019 playoffs by finishing eighth in the Eastern Conference.
Paunović joined the Fire in November 2015 after coaching stints with the Serbian U-18, U-19 and U-20 national teams. His greatest success came with the U-20 team, which won the 2015 FIFA Under-20 World Cup title under his care.
As a player, he represented Serbia and Montenegro and suited up for 13 different clubs, including Atletico Madrid, Getafe, Hannover 96, Rubin Kazan, and the Philadelphia Union in MLS, where he recorded three goals in 17 games and helped the franchise clinch its first-ever playoff berth in 2011.
Paunović’s transition to coaching in MLS wasn’t as seamless. The Fire made the playoffs once under Paunović – in 2017, when they lost 4-0 to the New York Red Bulls in a knockout round game – and also finished the regular season in 10th place in both the 2016 and 2018 seasons.
Highlights of Paunović’s tenure in Chicago include the club’s signing of German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, who recorded eight goals and 13 assists in 85 appearances over three seasons, as well as reaching the semifinals of the 2016 U.S. Open Cup.
Paunović’s reported departure adds a new layer to a time of transition for the Fire, which traded veteran midfielder Dax McCarty to Nashville SC on Tuesday and is also set to host its 2020 matches at Soldier Field after spending the last 13 years playing at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, Illinois.
“I would love to come back [in 2020],” Paunović told the Chicago Tribune in October when the club announced its move to Soldier Field. “I would love to take over here because I feel like this is a new beginning.”