BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The news that former Fire head coach Frank Klopas and President of Soccer Operations Javier Leon had stepped down took little time to spread Wednesday.
First team players returned to Toyota Park for the first time since Sunday’s disappointing 5-2 season-ending defeat at New York and were told of the news prior to the club’s official release Wednesday morning.
“I understand and respect the decision but I think it’s the sad part of the business,” said captain Logan Pause “Seeing people you’ve grown close with and developed relationships with and meant a lot to this club over years leave isn’t easy. It’s part of the world we live in -- the fine print that we all sign off on when we go into professional sports and I personally want to wish them the absolute best.”
Having just finished his first year with the club, veteran MLS midfielder Jeff Larentowicz echoed Pause’s sentiment.
“I think they’re two guys that worked hard and in a tough year tried to make the best and almost pulled it off,” he said. “It’s tough, it’s an unforgiving business and if you don’t succeed then things like this can happen. As a player that was brought here by these guys, I’m thankful that they did and I’m sorry to see them go.”
Klopas and Leon were two of the main technical hires made by Fire owner Andrew Hauptman going into his first full season with the club in 2008. Klopas served as Technical Director from that time until replacing Carlos de los Cobos as head coach in May 2011 while Leon headed up the club’s Soccer Operations throughout.
Of Leon the Fire owner said, “[Javier] has worked tirelessly on behalf of the Club and I want to express my deepest gratitude for his efforts.”
Hauptman also recognized Klopas’ long-time service to the Fire, saying, “[Frank] has been a big part of this organization for many years as a player, Ring of Fire member, technical director and coach. I want to personally thank him for his efforts over this period. He is a wonderful friend and will always be a member of the Fire family.”
“There have been many highlights over these years but I think now is an appropriate time to make a transition to new leadership,” Hauptman said.
The club has said that search for new leadership in soccer operations has commenced immediately though no time-table for securing replacements has been set.
“As a club we need to move on and figure out what’s next,” Pause said. “I haven’t really processed the specific expectations for next year but from a club stand point, I don’t think they’ve really change at all.
“This is a club that for a long time has demanded excellence on and off the field and I don’t think those values or the foundation are going to change.”
In terms of achievements, Hauptman made clear in his statement what is at the top of the club’s priority list, saying “Making this team compete for championships on a consistent basis is our first priority,” he said.