On Friday morning, Chicago Fire FC announced that former Swiss international Raphael Wicky will become the ninth full-time head coach in Club history.
Wicky, 42, joins the Fire following time spent as head coach of the U.S. Under-17 Men's National Team and Swiss Super League giants FC Basel. Get familiar with some of the top achievement's of Wicky's 17-year playing career as well as his connections to Fire and Major League Soccer history with five fast facts on the new man in charge:
Wicky's first experience with MLS came as a player in 2008, when he joined Chivas USA from Swiss club FC Sion. There, Wicky played alongside current Fire defender Jonathan Bornstein (then 22), as well as current MLSers Sacha Kljestan (LA Galaxy) and Brad Guzan (Atlanta United). Chivas USA finished second in the Western Conference standings that season, while boasting a roster that included Fire standouts like goalkeeper Zach Thornton, defender Jim Curtin, midfielders Jesse Marsch and Daniel Paladini, and the Fire's all-time leading goal scorer Ante Razov.
Wicky appeared five times for Chivas USA that season before announcing his retirement.
During Wicky's tenure as head coach of FC Basel, he led the club to the best UEFA Champions League result in Swiss history - an appearance in the tournament's Round of 16.
Prior to the knockout round, Wicky guided Basel to a second-place finish in Group A behind English Premier League side Manchester United and ahead of Russian side CSKA Moscow and Portuguese giants SL Benfica. Basel's group play efforts included a 1-0 home win over José Mourinho's Manchester United side.
In the Round of 16, Basel took a 4-0 home defeat to Manchester City in the first leg, before responding with a 2-1 win in Manchester in the second leg. They ultimately bowed out of the competition with a 5-2 defeat on aggregate.
On the World's Stage
Wicky appeared 75 times for the Swiss Men's National Team, which included starts in all four of Switzerland's matches at the 2006 World Cup.
In the opening match of group play, Wicky lined up against fellow MLS coaching newcomer Thierry Henry as Switzerland held eventual tournament runners up France to a 0-0 draw. The result helped Switzerland finish atop the group after picking up 2-0 wins against both Togo and South Korea. Switzerland were knocked out of the tournament in the Round of 16 in a penalty kick defeat to Ukraine.
Wicky also made appearances at the 1996 and 2004 UEFA European Championships, and was named the Swiss Footballer of the Year in 1998.
At the Club level
Wicky spent the bulk of his playing career in the German Bundesliga after getting his professional start at Swiss club FC Sion. Wicky arrived at Werder Bremen in July of 1997 and made an impact right away. He'd be named the club's Footballer of the Year in 1998, and go on to help them lift the DFB Pokal Cup in the 1998-99 season.
Wicky appeared 92 times for Werder Bremen before a brief transfer to Spain's Atlético Madrid, after which he returned to Germany to make 126 appearances for Hamburger SV from 2001-2007.
U.S. Youth Connections
As head coach of the U.S. Under-17 team in 2019, Wicky guided the team to a record 17th FIFA World Cup berth after an impressive qualifying run in the 2019 Concacaf U-17 Championship. Under Wicky’s leadership, the U.S. finished in second place in the Concacaf Championship after outscoring its opponents 28-5 and holding a clean sheet streak for 323 consecutive minutes.
The opportunity gave Wicky a chance to get familiar with some of MLS' up-and-coming talent ahead of his new role in Chicago, which includes Seattle’s Danny Leyva, FC Dallas’ Ricardo Pepi, D.C. United’s Griffin Yow, and Atlanta United’s George Bello to name a few.