Matkovitch ready for second year

Former Fire Reserves coach brings four years' experience in MLS

As Fire assistant coach Mike Matkovich enters his second season with the
first team, his boss will again be different from the year before. The
Chicago soccer fixture enters his fourth season as an assistant coach in
MLS, doing so with the distinction of serving under a different manager
each season.

Hailing from Naperville, Matkovich found his beginning with the Chicago
Magic, spending 18 years with the club while helping to build it into
one of the most successful and well-respected youth clubs in the nation.
His peak with the Magic came in 2000 when he was named NSCAA Coach of
the Year.

"I take away a lot of pride from my time with the Magic," said
Matkovich. "I played a big part in building an environmental academy at a
time when those were mostly an afterthought around the country. We had a
lot of success with our model, keeping it very professional and winning
a lot of championships."

The very type of academy that Matkovich helped bring along during the
90's was an early predecessor to the current integrated club setup that
the Chicago Fire now enjoy.

Following his time with the Magic, Matkovich took charge of the Chicago
Fire Reserves (now Chicago Fire PDL), leading the club to a 79-15-4
record, four division titles and an appearance in the 2003 Premier
Development League Championship match. During his time with the Fire
Reserves, Matkovich coached current Fire defender Dasan Robinson as well
as former Fire forward Chris Rolfe.

"This club has always been ahead of the game when it comes to player
development," he remarked. "The PDL side, saw a lot of very good players
come through, whether it was Dasan or Rolfe, or national team regulars
like Jay DeMerit, Jonathan Spector, Brad Guzan or Ricardo Clark, the
dedication to the concept has always been strong. With the recommitment
to player development from our owner [Andrew Hauptman] and Carlos [de
los Cobos], things will continue to go in the right direction."

With success abundant at the PDL level, Matkovich found his way north of
the border, serving as an assistant coach to Mo Johnston for expansion
side Toronto FC in 2007. The next year, Matkovich headed west, taking up
with Chivas USA, under the direction of former U.S. international
Preki. When a spot on Denis Hamlett's coaching staff opened up with his
hometown club early last season, Matkovich made his way back to the
Windy City.

"Working for different guys from year-to-year has been interesting. You
realize there's definitely more than one way to skin a cat and part of
moving around is about getting new ideas and finding different methods
to work with players. I'm glad to be back because my desire was always
to return to Chicago."

Now under his fourth boss in as many years, Matkovich takes on the
duties of being first assistant to Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos.
His role under new management will see him return to his roots, taking
bigger with the club's player development initiatives as well as playing
a bigger part in scouting opponents, the rest he says, remains the

"A lot of the things I'll be doing are the same," he said. "Though
specifically I work more closely with the players on an individual basis
and try to be an outlet for them, communicating what the manager wants
while also giving the guys a voice at the top that they feel comfortable

As the Fire look forward to their next preseason match, Thursday,
February 25 against Chivas de Guadalajara, Matkovich is encouraged by
the team's form and the way players have received the new coaching

"We have a very competitive group of players in camp this year and I
think that in part comes down to the level of trialists we currently
have. Carlos and Alvaro [Briones] have been a breath of fresh air to the
club and really have inspired the players to raise their game early on
in preseason. There's still some time before we kickoff our but we're
happy so far with the work the players have put in."