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.”
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.”