Thursday, November 3, 2011
Fire's Klopas best suited on sidelines
By Charlie Corr
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The Chicago Fire have learned at times the hard way that every move has to serve a specific purpose.
Fire owner Andrew Hauptman began Thursday's introduction of now full-time head coach Frank Klopas with an initial dinner meeting the two had before the 2008 season. It ended with Hauptman expressing to Klopas that he wanted him on board that year. But Hauptman did not know right away what that specific role would be.
Following a tough stretch as the team's technical director and then producing a mostly successful interim coaching stint to close out the 2011 season, the results clearly showed that Klopas was best suited to lead the team on the sidelines.
"We made mistakes, we've had some successes, but I think we've all grown a lot along the way," Hauptman said. "This year, when they came to me and said they were going to make a change with the head coach, it made a lot of sense for me at that point for Frank to step in as head coach. I felt like the timing was right. No one really knew the club better than he did. No one knew the players better than he did. And no one understood the possibilities more than he did."
Klopas and the Fire had to mend some errors and failures on the pitch a third of the way into the 2011 campaign. The team made some strides, with Klopas' side posting an 8-5-10 record following the firing of former head coach Carlos de los Cobos.
"The passion that he comes to training with and to games with every day is contagious," Fire defender Dan Gargan said of Klopas. "I think the team is excited to see what he can offer, really in more of a comfortable position."
But it does not get any easier for Klopas as he undertakes this visible role on a permanent basis.
"At any moment you could be playing or you could be gone," Klopas said. "I know the situation, but I feel very confident. And I don't say this in a cocky way -- I can tell you I believe in myself."
As for how the Fire's technical director duties will be handled moving forward, Hauptman said "there's 100 percent likelihood" that another person will come in to fill Klopas' previous role. In the meantime, Javier Leon continues to take on the technical side of things for Hauptman out of Los Angeles. Fire director of player personnel Mike Jeffries occasionally is involved in first-team technical elements, but a bulk of his work is directed toward the Fire's academy system.
The Fire hope they have finally gotten past the massive turnover stage when it comes to both the head coaching position and the player personnel. Gargan, who joined Chicago for the final third of the team's 2011 season, is certainly familiar with experiencing a turnover-heavy environment having come from Toronto FC.
"With the turnover that they've had year after year after year, in five years they've had six coaches," Gargan said. "The number of players that have come through that place, it's mind-boggling. And I think that certain organizations and certain clubs have really seen the way you can consistently win, and that's to keep a good core together and build around that core and not change out 22 guys out of a 30-man roster every single year."
With Klopas staying on board, as long as the bulk of the roster stays intact, there is no need to go through an extensive growing period that would have come about with another coach joining the organization.
"I think with Frank remaining in place and moving forward, there's a certain idea and understanding between him and his staff, which is first and foremost," Gargan said. "Being able to get the players to buy into that and understand where they want to go, that process should be shortened. I don't think that we as a team feel that we've reached a plateau where we're good enough to stop working and stop trying to improve the product that we have. But I think that people in the locker room are excited about the direction that we can go in."