“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
“Don’t mess with a good thing.”
Yes, this article just began with two clichés. But these two sets of “wise words” are heard a lot, especially in the world of sports, where these two old, tired sentences often ring true.
When a club comes as close to bringing home hardware as the Fire did in 2009 (when they were penalty kicks away from both the SuperLiga championship AND a spot in MLS Cup), many would expect a similar roster rolled out the following season to see if a trophy or two can be squeezed out of the squad.
Frank Klopas doesn’t believe in the aforementioned clichés. The Fire’s Technical Director proved that during the offseason when he made huge changes to the club despite its relative success in 2009.
He didn’t renew the contract of former Head Coach Denis Hamlett, who took the Fire to two conference finals in his two years with the team. Klopas instead hired Carlos de los Cobos, who has no prior MLS experience, as the team’s new head coach. The move changed the club’s entire soccer philosophy, switching the focus from defense to one that emphasizes possession and attractive play.
Jon Busch, the 2008 Goalkeeper of the Year, was shown the door. Klopas lost a temperamental striker in Cuauhtemoc Blanco and brought in forward Collins John, who has had his issues with clubs in the past, to replace him.
Needless to say, Klopas is not playing it safe. And while his fearlessness in decision making is admirable, it does raise a certain, pressing question: Will the changes actually improve the club?
I expect an improvement. In fact, I expect the Fire to end the regular season in first place in the Eastern Conference – narrowly edging out the Columbus Crew in the process.
The offseason roster changes and the club’s new tactical philosophy will be enough for the Fire to secure home field advantage in the playoffs.
Predicting the postseason is, of course, an entirely different story – one that I’ll save until November.