Klopas into the fold

WATCH: Chicago icon takes Fire reins on interim basis

On the heels of a nine-match winless streak, the Chicago
Fire parted ways with Carlos de los Cobos Monday afternoon and placed Technical
Director Frank Klopas in the role on an interim basis.

The Chicago soccer and Fire legend steps into the role
having previously served as an assistant coach for the club in 2000 and as the
head coach of the indoor Chicago Storm from 2004-06. Now in his fourth season
as the club’s technical director, Klopas spoke about the change and his role
before his first training session as interim head coach Tuesday.

“The change was a soccer operations decision,” said Klopas.
“Along with [Director of Player Personnel] Mike Jeffries, this was a soccer
operations decision. We evaluated everything and it’s not something that
happens overnight, it’s a process. We had to look at the bigger picture with
this team and make a decision, which was not an easy one.”

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The big picture is that the Fire, despite the obvious talent
and the fighting spirit that has been a change of pace from the 2010 team, has
had lapses in the back and bit of bad luck, resulting in a 1-4-6 record through
11 matches. The team has added only one regulation win outside of the league,
coming in a 2-1 March 30 U.S. Open Cup Play-In match against the Colorado
Rapids.

“I feel throughout the season we’ve been a very competitive
team. We’ve created opportunities and been in almost all the games. In the 11
matches we’ve played so far we’ve given up a lot of goals from set pieces and
that’s an area we need to do a better job in. A little more focus on those
details as far as the defensive part of the game goes will be key. Everyone is
seeing the opportunities being created and the goals we’re scoring but I think
there are some small details that have been causing us problems and we need to
fix those.”

Defensively, the Fire are tied with Kansas City for the
second worst goals against record in the league at 19 goals against. More
recently, the team has seemed to lack some urgency out of the locker room both
to begin games and at the half (see Toronto away and the last two matches vs.
San Jose) and the good news there is they’ve shown the spirit to battle back…
The bad news, its only been enough to earn a point in those games, leaving the
Fire towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

Though sitting in a low spot right now, the change was still
made in time to perhaps light a spark underneath a young, talented team that
finds itself only six points out of the last MLS Cup playoff spot. With
questions surrounding the new coach about whether he’d like to be considered
for the job going forward, his focus is solely on making up ground to put the
Fire in the playoffs for the 12th time in 14 seasons.

“I’m the technical director of the team, I really enjoy that
position. My sole focus in my role is to take this group of talented players,
guys that I believe in, and lead them to the playoffs. That’s the only thing
I’m thinking of right now.”

As far as balancing the Technical Director side of things,
Klopas will continue to look for his replacement as the season moves forward,
though there is no time table on when a possible replacement could come in.

“There’s going to be a list of candidates that myself,
[Andell Sports Managing Director] Javier Leon and Mike [Jeffries] will put
together and then the process will begin as far as interviewing them, getting
to know if they’re the right people to lead the franchise.”

Either way, all MLS eyes will be on Chicago this Saturday
when the Fire welcome Seattle Sounders FC to Toyota Park as the city’s most
iconic soccer son takes the reins of a team whose legend and early success he
helped create.   

“My passion and drive for this club to persevere through
this transition is my top priority,” said Klopas in Monday’s press release. “I
believe in this team, the players and the badge and will work tirelessly to
ensure the success of the team going forward.”