This September is a special month for former Fire forward Andy Herron.
On the 27th, it will be the 15-year anniversary of his game-winning goal in the 2006 U.S. Open Cup final, a 3-1 win against the L.A. Galaxy at SeatGeek Stadium that saw the Club claim its fourth title in the tournament.
Additionally, this month marks the one year anniversary of his return to the Club as part of Technical Director Sebastian Pelzer’s scouting department.
After initially connecting with Pelzer in early 2020, Herron has spent the last 12 months helping lead the Club’s player identification efforts in the Caribbean and Central America.
“When I got the call from Sebastian Pelzer that I was going to be the scout for Chicago in Concacaf, I was really excited because of what Chicago means for me,” Herron said. “Obviously it was a little bit difficult at first because of the pandemic, but Sebas knows and everybody knows how I feel to be part of the organization.”
The pair initially met early last year in Tampa when Herron was invited to visit the Fire’s preseason camp in Florida. After remaining in contact throughout the spring and summer, Pelzer offered the former Fire forward an opportunity to return to the organization in a permanent position on his staff.
“We got on very well,” Pelzer added. ”He has a link to the Club. He comes from an area - Costa Rica originally - which is interesting to have a link to. He also has a lot of connections. We were trying to link everything together.”
Herron, now 43, appeared 78 times in all competitions across two separate playing stints for the Fire, first from 2004-06 and again in 2008.
He became an integral part of the Fire attack immediately upon arriving from Costa Rican club Herediano near the end of the 2004 season. The Limón native was the Club’s Golden Boot winner in 2006, scoring nine goals during the campaign and adding the aforementioned match-winner in the team’s Open Cup triumph that season.
After returning to the Club in 2008, he’d further secure his place in the Fire’s history books. A pair of Open Cup goals that summer took his all-time tally to eight, a haul that remains the Club’s tournament scoring record.
“The fact that he was here at the Club at a very successful time, he always has the intention to do the best for us,” Pelzer said. “He would have done any job, but I think he has shown a good eye, and the way that he knows how the Club worked when we were successful is also a big part of the story.”
Herron’s charge to help lead the Club’s scouting efforts in Concacaf to-date recently took him to the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup tournament, which ran from July 10 to Aug. 1 and wrapped up with the U.S. Men’s National Team’s 1-0 win over Mexico in the tournament final.
“I like to watch live games, and I love to see trainings, to see how the player behaves during practice," he said. "One thing is to see a player during the game, but it’s another thing to see a player in practice. Off the field, it’s more important - who he is, how he is with his family. Is he a good guy? Is he responsible? Stuff like that, that can give the organization more peace or feel more free in the moment when they make the decision to say, “We’re going to go for this guy.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic has placed some limitations on his ability to scout and meet with players in person, he’s confident that the network he’s building and the contacts he’s brought with him back to Chicago will pay dividends for the Fire in both the short and long-term.
On top of that, he’s been given the green light from Pelzer to do what he thinks is best to go out and find players that will wear the Fire badge with pride.
“They support me with everything,” Herron said. “It’s ‘Andy, do what you’ve got to do. Go where you’ve got to go.’ This has been very important, because right now the Chicago Fire’s network in terms of scouting in the Caribbean and in Central America are huge. The contacts that I have, that I bring to the Club, being part of the Chicago Fire organization, are really important. These guys are really supportive of what I do.”
Having worn the Fire badge himself, Herron very proudly views the player identification process through a florian cross-shaped lens.
“If I’m sitting with you and I said, “Do you want to play for the Chicago Fire? Yes? Ok, I want you to sweat for that jersey,” he said. “That jersey means a lot, more than what you think you’re going to make, your salary. If that’s the first thing you’re thinking of, then I’m just going to pass. I try to make the players fill the jersey first.”
“I’m just straight up like that. That’s the way I feel about the Chicago Fire jersey.”
Herron’s return to the Club as a former player is just one of a string of back-to-the-future moments for the Fire over the last two years. Frank Klopas is a key part of head coach Raphael Wicky’s staff, while former midfielder Patrick Nyarko was hired to the CFFC Academy coaching roster in June. The Club is also back playing at its ancestral home along the Chicago lakefront at Soldier Field.
The blend of experience from the past with the resources of the present has Herron optimistic about the part he’s now playing organization’s future.
“He cares about the Club very much,” Pelzer said. “I think, besides that he’s a good guy, he has a very good attitude with working habits. He wants to make everything correct. He tries to get better every day, and he’s a good asset to our scouting side.”
“This is the right way,” Herron added. “This is the way to go. I know that Sebas really listens to me, and I know that we’re going in the right direction. Things are going to be fine, and we will see a great future looking forward with this organization and the Club.”