Ex-Player Slams Chicago Fire on Twitter

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Late Sunday evening while attending a DraftKings event, former Chicago Fire player Hunter Jumper let dozens of scathing criticisms of the soccer club fly in a series of tweets.  He became the latest in a line of players to publicly call out the Fire’s club culture in the last year.  Jumper revealed shocking details about the coaching staff during Frank Klopas’ tenure, owner Andrew Hauptman, the culture in the locker room, training and concussion protocols, and the club’s management structure. Perhaps most surprising, the twitter feed took the form of an open discussion with fans and media members.  It all began with what looked like a simple (yet still surprising) comment in reply to Last Word on Sports Senior Editor Jeff Krause.


Hunter Jumper was a defender who played in Chicago from 2012-2014 under Frank Klopas. He was on the roster last season under Frank Yallop as well, but did not appear, after his career was derailed by health problems which were not soccer-related.  A full collection of the tweets can be read at the Chicago Fire Confidential blog, which is a must-follow news source for anything Fire related.

There are lots of brilliant nuggets of insight in this unprecedented set of tweets. There are also some truly disturbing accusations that Jumper levels at the team.  Perhaps most shocking is the suggestion that Michael Videira’s career was ended (“His life is ruined!” Jumper said) due to playing with concussions under Klopas (Full disclosure: Jumper responded to this writer’s question when giving this information).

Other highlights include Jumper defending owner Andrew Hauptman’s passion (something already misconstrued by many on the #cf97 twitter hashtag) but heavily criticizing his management and front office/technical staff hires.  “if you entrust (sic) the wrong people to run your company, you will lose every time” Jumper said.  He also mentions that Hauptman personally texts players, something which may be surprising to a fan base that hasn’t heard anything from the owner directly for quite some time.

A major take away from this whole episode is that there is now another voice joining Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass in criticizing the Front Office structure of the Fire.  Jumper claims that Hauptman does want to win and does care about players, but is hampered by poor management between the levels of ownership and game day staff.  This is interesting considering Kass and others have called for the club to hire a President with a soccer background, clean up the confusing management structure, and clarify where the buck really stops in the FO.

Jumper also describes a dysfunctional club culture where decisions on playing time came from unclear or inappropriate sources, (“Haha I literally started laughing when I heard who was making the final decisions on players/playing time”) trainers refused to sit or speak with coaches at meals, players were constantly told they were in danger of losing their jobs, and coaches, technical staff, and ownership blamed each other for the problems on the field without taking responsibility.

Of course, this is not the first time a former player has spoken out about problems in Bridgeview.

After leaving the Fire for Montreal this January (to rejoin Klopas), Bakary Soumare unleashed his own critique of the Fire, invoking the imagery of the pitch at Toyota Park which was destroyed by concerts and poor groundskeeping during the 2014 season.

“I played in Chicago in 2007, when it was a big club that always won, that always made the playoffs. I saw the decline from that time to today when it comes to the staff, the squad, the club itself, the stadium, all the way to the grass. The grass represents the club. That’s what the club has become, alas. Chicago is my home. It always will be. But the club has really fallen from when it used to stand.”

Soumare’s comments at the time seemed to rally fans around the Fire, and they were apparently good bulletin board material, as Chicago beat the Impact 3-0 in their next meeting.  But Soumare is not alone.

Another former player, Chris Rolfe, went on record on D.C. United Central, and called the Fire organization “stale”, saying he had stayed for too long in Chicago.

Rolfe’s comments stung because he was always a fan favorite in Chicago.  But what hurt even more was seeing the amazing form he captured almost immediately after joining D.C..   Players like Rolfe, Baggio Husidic, Dan Gargan, and Quincy Amarkiwa have enjoyed extremely good runs of form after leaving the Fire.

Quincy Amarikwa was recently interviewed on Extra Time Radio, an MLS league podcast.  When asked why he was also able to enjoy immediate success after leaving the Fire, he said the following:

“That’s been sort of (the story) over the course of my career. Being told that, OK, you get your opportunity so you better take advantage of it, otherwise we’ll move on to someone else.  So, I’ve been kind of prepped for that over the course of my career.  And when Dom (Kinnear) brought me in, he told me he’s bringing me in to play minutes and not be a roster filler player…having that peace of mind and understanding of what I was brought here to do allowed me to play my game…and that’s all you need.”

While this doesn’t seem like much, it is interesting when viewed in juxtaposition to this tweet:


Amarikwa and Rolfe are players who thrive on confidence, something apparently in short supply in the Klopas locker room.  It appears that for the first time, Amarikwa was told he would be given a chance to succeed, and he delivered.

Even Bulgarian Fire legend and former Barcelona player Hristo Stoichkov got in on the action this year, saying on a live Univision discussion about the rapidly improving MLS; “Yes, everyone is growing except my team Chicago Fire. Everyone slips away from them.”  It’s worth noting that even after all these years, and all the terrible results, a player with Champions League experience still calls the Fire “my team.”  There is not a shortage of passion among current or former players of the club, something that should give supporters some comfort.

Still, this type of open, on the record criticism from active and former players is troubling.  At this point, it would be downright shocking if the league and the Fire ownership were not aware of major problems inside the organization.  While the Soumare, Rolfe, and Jumper comments look bad, they are just a peek behind the curtain, and are not an unbiased representation of the club. But, if even a small fraction of Jumper’s comments have merit, they are extremely damning.  While there is not much left to play for on the field this season, there appears to be plenty of work to be done off the field in Chicago.

Photo by Brian D. Kersey/Getty Images