Tuesday, May 31, 2011
New role is personal for Fire's Klopas
By Charlie Corr
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Chicago Fire technical director and now interim head coach Frank Klopas wears his Fire passion at the highest level.
Klopas' soccer roots are embedded within the Fire organization and the city of Chicago, and he wants to see this club return to its glory years that he experienced as a player. But Klopas also is responsible for assembling the bulk of this year's Fire squad, which has posted a 1-4-6 record this season under recently fired head coach Carlos de los Cobos.
Klopas did not want to take the coaching reigns, but this assignment is personal.
"I'm going to do everything possible to make sure that when I was technical director to do the work to bring the right players here, and now as a coach, to make sure that myself and the staff do everything humanly possible to prepare the guys and give them every opportunity to be successful," Klopas said. "Then I can walk away with my head high and say I've done everything possible that I could. Then I will feel good about it."
The Fire dismissed De los Cobos on Monday, and the team is in the midst of a nine-game winless streak heading into Saturday's match against Seattle Sounders FC at Toyota Park.
Klopas said that the decision to let go of De los Cobos -- which was made on Sunday and announced the following day -- was an ongoing evaluation following a playoff-less 2010 and a one-win start to 2011.
You cannot fault the Fire for giving De los Cobos enough time to adapt to MLS. He had 41 matches under his belt.
"In Greece, I had a coach that they hired, and before preseason was over they fired the guy," said Klopas, a native of Greece. "It was crazy. They paid the guy a couple million dollars. Why didn't they hire me?"
De los Cobos met with the Fire earlier in the day in his final gathering with his former players.
"It takes some pretty strong character to show up in front of a big group that decided to let you go and face your former players," Fire captain and defensive midfielder Logan Pause said. "He thanked the guys and he thanked everyone for the opportunity. We all wished him well."
Klopas said Tuesday that the Fire will not make drastic changes as far as their attacking approach on the pitch. Set-piece defending is one specific focal point that Klopas wants to see some drastic improvement.
"This is not the time when you are experimenting stuff," Klopas said. "You do stuff like this in preseason, when you have two months to be trying to figure things out. I think we just have to fine tune certain things. If you look at every game, I think that as a team we have created opportunities. This team always scores goals. On the other hand, we have allowed a lot of goals."
Klopas headed his first training session on Tuesday. As the week progresses, tweaks to the system certainly will arise. Fire defender and midfielder Gonzalo Segares said there will be reinforcement about tape studying -- focused both at their own tendencies and the tendencies of their opponents.
In the grand scheme, however, the Fire's success boils down to work ethic and game-day execution.
"Things don't change from our end," Pause said. "I think we need to work harder. I think we need to work more intelligently on the training field. And I think I can help continue to move that forward. But in terms of my job, it's to help the team however I can on the field. That's not really going to change too much."
The Fire's poor record ultimately paved the way to De los Cobos' departure, and perhaps the coaching switch will serve as another wake-up call as Chicago attempts to rectify the worst start in team history.
"Maybe some guys felt that they didn't get an opportunity with Carlos, and others did," Segares said. "I'm sure guys will try harder to show they belong in the starting 11 and raise the intensity in practices. There's going to be more hitting and stuff like that, which is good. I like that. Maybe we need some of that."