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Columnist
A few ideas Fire's new boss should start to kick around
By Orrin Schwarz | Daily Herald Columnist

Julian Posada

 

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Published: 9/22/2010 2:53 PM

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Julian Posada has his hands full.

His new job as the Fire's team president is to bring the club's financial ledgers into the black in the teeth of tough economic times. He needs to find a way to fill Toyota Park to capacity every game. He needs to sell Chicago Fire soccer like the Sounders have been sold to Seattle, the Union to Philadelphia, the Reds to Toronto.

Fortunately, Posada is not starting with a blank slate. This is a team with its own soccer-specific stadium and a loyal (if not huge) fan base.

Unfortunately, the product on the field almost surely will miss the playoffs, making life that much more difficult. Of course, Posada has to think beyond the next month.

Here are a few suggestions, free of charge, for the Fire's new front-office boss.

Sign Brian McBride: No, not to a player contract. McBride announced his retirement a few weeks ago, effective at the end of the season.

The Fire should make McBride a team ambassador like the Blackhawks have done with Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita. Ask him to be a team VP of Community Relations or something.

McBride wants to remain involved in soccer, although he's not sure to what extent. He wants to stay local. He's great with the media and fans. His career was the stuff of legends, he's a hometown hero, he looks like everyone's all-American and he's very likable. The Fire needs him to take some of the load off technical director Frank Klopas.

Increase the media presence: Yeah, you didn't need me to tell you this one. Considering your background in Chicago media, it's probably a good chunk of the reason the Fire hired you.

But boy, do you have your work cut out for you here.

Chicago might be the home of U.S. Soccer, but it has been a tough media market to crack.

The evening news rarely shows highlights, often rushing through the final score at the end of the sports segment after two minutes of watching the anchor and a buddy do pratfalls on a golf course.

Sports-talk radio treats soccer like it has swine flu.

Speaking of radio, you mentioned having games broadcast in English...

Make stadium place to be: There aren't a great deal of places to go before or after the game in the greater Bridgeview area, so the Fire has tried to make Toyota Park itself the place to be on Saturday nights.

The postgame concerts at Soldier Field in the 1990s were a personal favorite. It was fun to finish writing a story while listening to Poi Dog Pondering, before wandering down to the stands to hear the rest of the concert (the story always came first, boss).

Figure out your primary target: In your introductory media teleconference you mentioned the Hispanic market - not surprising given your background in Spanish-language media - and the city's Polish fans. But there were many other market segments of soccer fandom that went unmentioned, and the city's fragmented soccer community probably is the problem.

Who is the Fire's target audience? Some other ethnic group? Suburban soccer families? Hard-core soccer fans like those in Section 8? The character of Toyota Park can change depending on the opponent.

I'd suggest you take the off-season to figure it all out, but for a team president that's the busy season.

Good luck.