Yesterday was the 15-year anniversary of the club acquiring Lubos Kubik.
Today marks 15 years since Frank Klopas finally came home but as my conversation with him revealed, it wasn’t as easy as it should have been…
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“More than anything else I wanted to come back to Chicago to close out my career,” said the Fire manager. “I had a small window of opportunity towards the end of my career and it was disappointing for me in the inaugural season Chicago didn’t have a team.”
Because of that, Klopas was initially allocated to the Kansas City Wiz, where he would spend the first two seasons of MLS before being dealt to the Columbus Crew in exchange for former U.S. national teammate Pete Marino just prior to the 1997 MLS Expansion Draft.
“I didn't want to play in Columbus,” he said. “I just wanted to be back in Chicago and end my career at home so I made it clear to the league that I didn’t want to go and when it came down to it at the start of preseason, I was getting pretty hefty fines every day.”
Though the league was in its infancy, they still hit Klopas with a daily $1000 fine for the estimated four-to-five day holdout.
Eventually a deal was worked out by which the Fire acquired Klopas in exchange for midfielder Jason Farrell, who the team had selected from the Crew in the Expansion Draft.
Joining the likes of Kubik and Peter Nowak already on the team and with former Polish internationals Roman Kosecki and Jerzy Podbrozny on their way, Klopas had to take a significant pay cut to make sure the deal happened.
“They deducted the fines from my Fire pay,” he joked. “I had to take less money to be able to come and finish my career in Chicago but in the end it was all worthwhile.”
Klopas would go on to score the first two Fire goals at Soldier Field in a 2-0 win over Tampa Bay on April 4, 1998 (WATCH).
Six months later he would tally what remains one of the most iconic strikes in club history, scoring a 99th minute golden goal winner over the Crew in the 1998 Open Cup final, clinching the American double for the Fire.
“Waking up that day I just had a feeling that I was going to score the winning goal. Whether I started or came off the bench, I wanted to go in and contribute to the team. It was a great ending to a perfect season.”
WATCH: 1998 U.S. Open Cup Win