Chicago Fire hire former FC Basel sporting director Georg Heitz
The Chicago Fire have named Georg Heitz as their new sporting director, the club announced on Friday.
He will oversee the Fire's football operations, including first-team and Academy decisions.
"I'm very ambitious and I've always wanted to win titles. I won titles in Switzerland and I believe I share the same philosophies with the owner [Joe Mansueto]," said Heitz in a phone interview on Friday with ESPN.
"He wants to win and together we want to build a world class organization. It is a huge task. He is an owner that is willing to spend, which is great news for any sporting director, but we will spend in an intelligent way. I felt like I was in a brainstorming session with colleagues when we first met and I'm confident we can deliver."
Heitz, who served as sporting director of Swiss giants FC Basel from 2012 to 2017, is tasked with building a team that last reached the MLS playoffs in 2017.
The Fire have been in search for a head coach since the departure of Velkjo Paunovic in November. At the top of Heitz's to-do list is to find the right man to lead the team on the field in 2020, whether the coach has MLS experience or not.
"Our priority is to find a coach. If we're late in doing that, then that leads to excuses. It must be the best candidate. I like coaches with an offensive approach. We are moving to downtown so it is important we offer entertaining soccer for the fans. I like active teams, teams that have speed, technical skills. I have several candidates in mind," said Heitz.
The unprecedented growth being experienced by MLS, which added Charlotte as its 30th franchise earlier this week, was one of the main factors that lured Heitz to Chicago.
"The league attracted me. It's a booming league and has a very exciting progression. I wanted to do something different from my normal set-up and so it is an honor for me to be here," he said.
In his time at FC Basel, Heitz led the team to eight straight Swiss championships, plus six appearances in the UEFA Champions League, including berths in the Round of 16 in 2012 and 2014. Now part of a league in which he will navigate unique mechanisms such as the salary cap, Designated Players and Allocation Money, Heitz plans to lean heavily on those within the club, including Fire president Nelson Rodriguez, who previously oversaw the sporting side of the Fire.
"I've been studying every day, learning every day. I need the expertise of the people who are here. They will help me. I'm a team player. I've had some great exchanges with Nelson and I'm optimistic that I'll get up to speed," said Heitz.
In addition to his first-team duties, Heitz is motivated to tap into the Chicago metropolitan area's diverse population of 10 million people as part of his efforts to improve the club's academy.
"Bringing a young player through the academy to the first team is one of the greatest experiences you can have in soccer. I've experienced this, and I'm convinced that the potential is huge in a city like Chicago. There must be talent with so many people. We have good people working in the Academy and we will improve our programs," said Heitz.