Some months ago, in the midst of a tumultuous Chicago Fire season, news broke that much of the Chicago Fire Academy coaching staff had departed the club. The story behind why the staff parted ways with the Academy differs depending on who you ask. Nelson Rodriguez addressed it in his August media roundtable, while those close to the staff maintain that the departure surrounded treatment they received from Rodriguez after arriving in Chicago last October.
According to sources with knowledge of situation, Rodriguez told the Academy staff that they weren’t adequately developing players coming through the Fire’s system, and that the national championships the Academy had previously won “don’t mean anything.” This, in addition to other issues between the two sides regarding player development and player mismanagement inevitably led to the staff exodus at the conclusion of the Academy season this summer.
While there were a few holdovers that remained when the shift took place in August, the most notable departures from the club were John Dorn, who had been with the Fire since 2001, and Gonzalo Segares, 10-year veteran of the Fire’s first team and member of the 2006 U.S. Open Cup side, before he retired in 2014 and moved to the Academy as a coach.
That news was churned back up today when it broke on Big Soccer that Segares was denied the opportunity to finish his licensing course with the French Football Federation, through whom MLS has an agreement. While it may be difficult to believe what you read on an internet message board, multiple sources have affirmed the validity of the claims made in that thread.
Segares began the course while coaching at the Academy, just as the post on Big Soccer stated. When he left the Academy, along with John Dorn and others, he agreed to pay for the balance of the course out of his own pocket, since he was no longer affiliated with a MLS club. Rodriguez blocked that possibility, making a “big deal about it” as one source put it, thereby preventing Segares from being able to complete the week he had left to finish out the course and earn his FFF badge.
As a solution to the incomplete course, Segares was offered the opportunity to finish the course by not only paying the difference for the final week, but also reimbursing the Fire for what the club had paid toward the course while Segares was with the Academy, something Segares was unable to do.
UPDATE 11/5/2016: Upon publishing this article, one thing that has come into question was the club’s actions to deny Segares from finishing his licensing course without full repayment to the club for the portion paid by the Fire. As stated in the BS thread, the practice of allowing departing MLS academy coaches to finish their license at their own expense is not an anomaly.
That practice has since been verified by sources with knowledge who came forward after this article originally published on Friday evening. The understanding is that coaches who have been a part of MLS-run academies, with whom FFF has an agreement, could finish their FFF coursework at their own expense after leaving their MLS affiliate, with no repayment of previous coursework necessary on the part of the departed coach. To that end, it’s been revealed that this same practice has taken place in Seattle and Colorado, with each club picking up the tab while the coach was employed at their MLS club, then allowing the coach to finish the course at his own expense after leaving the club. Sources confirmed this Saturday, negating any potential assertion that the repayment of full course fees by former Academy coaches is standard practice among MLS clubs.
In addition to clarification on the repayment of license fees by coaches, it’s also been revealed that another compelling reason for the departure of the Academy staff was due to allegations levied by Rodriguez of staff mismanagement of the Academy’s players. Rodriguez allegedly asserted that the staff did not keep a list of players they wanted to keep in the Academy system, despite a list that was actively kept “for months” by the coaching staff. Rodriguez also would not allow the coaching staff to release any players because the Fire GM himself wanted to send a personal email to each player’s family. Those emails never came, effectively tying the coaching staff’s hands in being able to do part of their job while in the Academy’s employ.