2010 was a year of change across a number of markets in Major League Soccer, from a roster overhaul at Chivas USA to a tumultuous season in Toronto and a some drama in the coaching ranks at at D.C. United.
The Chicago Fire were no exception this year, undergoing one of the most dynamic collective shifts in personnel in the franchise’s history.
The big names, of course, belonged to new head coach Carlos de los Cobos, freshly-minted Designated Player Nery Castillo as well as Freddie Ljungberg, the first Designated Player to be traded in league history.
The team also parted ways with Fire original and captain C.J. Brown and US national team stalwart Brian McBride, both of whom exited gracefully after years of service to the league.
But the biggest and most interesting change is also MLSsoccer.com’s Under Reported Story of the Year: the hiring of new club president Julian Posada.
The Fire unveiled their new boss back on Sept. 14, and it was no surprise the announcement fell largely under the radar against the other news of the day. Front office moves rarely resonate as loudly as the ones made on the field, and Posada’s hiring understandably paled in comparison to the coverage given the Chicago storylines of Castillo’s arrival, de los Cobos’ acclimation to MLS, or the teary retirement speech McBride gave in front of a packed media room at Toyota Park.
But the move to hire Posada is nonetheless one of the most intriguing and perhaps pitch-perfect moves made by any club this season. And certainly compared to the men who preceded him in Chicago, Posada is a different type of executive who has plenty of followers intrigued as to what changes might lay ahead for the team in 2011.
Posada doesn’t come from a sports background but rather from the world of media, as the president of a multimedia company targeting second- and third-generation Hispanics in Chicago. Most teams often keep the top executive job in the sports family, opting to hire accomplished businessmen with acumen for high-profile branding, booming ticket sales or a drive to see the team grab some traction in an often crowded local sports landscape.
But Posada’s background is less about sports and more about communication. He’s spent the bulk of his career finding ways to reach Hispanics through a variety of platforms, including a role as the general manager for Hoy, the Tribune Co.-owned outlet which serves as the only Spanish daily newspaper in Chicago.
And while Posada isn’t the only Hispanic team president in league history, he’s the only one currently on the job. He takes over the Fire at a time when Chicago’s Hispanic population continues to rise, and the team’s star player and head coach are both known and beloved commodities among the team’s Hispanic fanbase.
Exactly how Posada uses his credentials to approach 2011 and potentially build on that fanbase will be one of the off-the-field storylines of the coming year, and one we’re eager to follow.