The Chicago Fire have announced Ezra Hendrickson as their new head coach for the 2022 season.
Chicago have been on the hunt for a new candidate to man the dugout since parting ways with Raphael Wicky in September. Former United States international Frank Klopas saw out the 2021 campaign on an interim basis. The Fire once again failed to make the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Reports emerged earlier this week that Hendrickson had become the prime candidate for the job. The Fire have now made the appointment official, with sources informing 90min that he's signed a two-year deal with an option for a third.
“I am immensely proud and humbled to be named the head coach of Chicago Fire FC,” Hendrickson said in an official press release.
“There are many people to thank. Firstly, I am grateful to our owner Joe Mansueto for this incredible opportunity. It’s a responsibility that I do not take lightly. Georg Heitz, Sebastian Pelzer and Eddie Rock have also been supportive throughout this process, and I am excited to work alongside them as colleagues. We must be a team in order to achieve our goals.”
Addressing the Fire supporters, he added: “To the Fire faithful, I know that we have a great deal of work ahead of us to get the Club back to its days of MLS dominance.
"It will not be easy, but I know that your continued support of our Club will be necessary and appreciated by myself, the players and the staff. I’m a big believer that a team’s identity should align with the reputation of the city it represents.
"When I think of Chicago, I think of hardworking, successful people and that is the identity this team will adopt. We will always give you our best efforts and make you proud to wear the Fire colors.”
This is Hendrickson's first senior head coach position, but that doesn't mean he lacks experience. The 49-year-old previously managed the Tacoma Defiance (formerly Seattle Sounders 2), and held assistant roles with the Seattle Sounders, LA Galaxy, and the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines national team alongside his current role with the Crew.
Hendrickson has become a highly respected figure around the league. During 25 years in MLS years combined as a player and coach, Hendrickson has won 15 major trophies, including helping Caleb Porter's men to MLS Cup just last year. He's also worked under highly successful coaches such as Sigi Schmid and Brian Schmetzer.
A defender during his playing days, Hendrickson turned out for the likes of MetroStars, LA Galaxy, Dallas Burn (now FC Dallas), Chivas USA, DC United, and Columbus Crew before retiring in 2008 - with 36 international caps and two goals for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines under his belt. Hendrickson certainly fills the Fire's remit of hiring a coach with MLS experience.
“We’re extremely pleased to welcome Ezra to the Club as our new head coach,” said sporting director Georg Heitz.
“He is a very well-respected coach who has had a highly successful career in MLS. Ezra has worked in winning environments alongside some of the most accomplished managers in the league, and we are confident that he is the right person to help us achieve our goals. I look forward to beginning our work together during what will be an important offseason for the club.”
Focus will now turn to preparing for the 2022 MLS season, with Chicago first traveling to Inter Miami on 26 February before hosting Orlando City at the start of March.