BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (Jan. 3, 2019) – The Chicago Fire Soccer Club announced today that the Club has signed Head Coach Veljko Paunović to a multi-year contract extension. Paunović will enter his fourth season as head coach of the Chicago Fire in 2019. The contract is for two years with an option to extend for a third year.
“We believe the foundation we are setting and the standards we are demanding are the right ones in developing our championship program,” said Chicago Fire President and General Manager Nelson Rodríguez. “Continuity is a critical element in that process and retaining Pauno for the next few years as a leader in that effort was an important off-season objective.”
During his first three seasons with the Fire, Paunović produced a 31-46-25 regular season record. In 2017, he guided the Club to the third-best overall record (16-11-7) in MLS, securing the Men In Red’s first appearance in the MLS Cup Playoffs since 2012. Paunović was also named head coach of the 2017 MLS All-Star Team, which featured four players from the Fire’s roster, in the side’s match against Real Madrid at Soldier Field.
“I feel excited about this project as I was the very first day three years ago when I became a part of the Chicago Fire Football family,” said Paunović. “I’m also very grateful for this new opportunity with the club and the values that I’m fully aligned and committed to representing in every city and field around the globe and US. I want to thank our fans for their passion, support and their devotion. My special thanks go for our ownership and GM Nelson Rodríguez who have been giving us the direction and all their support in good and bad times. It’s all about the conviction, trust, and unity. Get ready to lift the trophy this year.”
Paunović’s staff will also remain with the Club. This includes Assistant Coaches Marko Mitrović and Eric Gehrig, Goalkeeper Coach Aleksandar Sarić, Strength and Conditioning Coach Petar Milčanović, Video Analyst Nenad Babić and Senior Manager of Team and Soccer Operations Alex Boler.
Paunović joined the Fire on Nov. 24, 2015. Prior to signing with the Club, he spent four seasons (2012-2015) managing the Serbian Youth National Teams (U-18, U-19, U-20), garnering success at the international level. After guiding the Serbia U-19 side to a third place finish at the 2014 UEFA U-19 European Championship, Paunović led the U-20 side to a world title in the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup, defeating Brazil 2-1 to earn Serbia its first world championship at any level as an independent nation.
Paunović holds a UEFA PRO coaching license as well as a Sporting Director degree from the Royal Spanish Football Federation. He speaks six languages, including English, Spanish, Serbian, Macedonian, Russian and German. Paunović also spent nine months as a UEFA Champions League analyst for TVE in Spain.
As a player, Paunović enjoyed a successful 16-year career with 11 teams in Serbia, Spain, Germany, Russia and the United States. He compiled 76 goals in 358 appearances, earning two caps with the Serbia and Montenegro national team. Additionally, while playing in the Spanish first division, he won a La Liga title, a Copa del Trophy and a Spanish Super Cup.