Part II: Interview with Fire technical director Frank Klopas
Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis admitted he was surprised that the Chicago Fire were not heavy on the attack during their Eastern Conference final clash in mid-November at Toyota Park. That match was scoreless through regulation before RSL pulled off the victory in a shootout en route to the MLS Cup.
This was Fire head coach Denis Hamlett's final match in Chicago, and now the offseason tone is much different. The defense-first mentality we were so accustomed to hearing during the 2009 season is not prevalent, and Fire technical director Frank Klopas wants to see a more attacking brand of play heading into 2010.
In this second part of my conversation with Klopas, he focuses on the type of person he wants to see at the helm for next season:
On the style of a future head coach:
"The game has changed and evolved. You need a modern coach who can deal with changes and different styles of players. In the past, you had certain superstars who could dictate the tempo, but now the game has changed. One guy is not going to win the World Cup. It's all about the team, and that's important for tactical organization and defending against your opponent. Whether it's player 1 or 24, I feel they're just as important to the team. ... There are a lot of different aspects to coaching. I, by no means, am an expert. But I've had different coaches and I've seen different styles. I've traveled, and I'm a student of the game who always tries to get better. And I've seen guys that have been successful. They need to be a good communicator and be very good with the technical side."
On who the Fire are targeting to fill the coaching void:
"We have our list of guys, some with MLS experience, some that might not have that much experience, some who know the league well, some guys from around the world. We've gathered information from our sources and we want to sit down and talk with everyone. We obviously want to take care of this sooner than later, but this is an important decision within the organization. We want to make the right decision and it doesn't happen overnight."
On the possibility of stepping in permanently on the coaching side:
"Even though I've never [been an MLS head coach], I've heard from a lot of players when I was playing, telling me that I am a coach. You're always thinking on the field, how to break a team down. It's always in your mind. Right now, I'm thankful to have this opportunity [as a technical director], thankful to come back and restructure this team and put resources into the academy. It's exciting, and who knows down the road where things will change. I'm in a position where I can help a lot with the first team and whoever the coach is. I'm committed, the other staff, the whole organization is in it together, from the president all the way down. I love where I am right now. More than anything, I love the city, I love this organization and we hope to continue the growth of this sport. I don't take it for granted."
On the assets of having a close connection to Chicago soccer:
"I've been fortunate that I grew up in the city of Chicago, I've been with the Olympic team (U.S. Men's National Team in 1988) and did a lot of traveling. I've had a lot of different experiences. Even when I stopped [coaching after the Chicago Storm], my coaching education never stopped. My experience with the Storm was a good one for me, and even though I made some mistakes, I'm glad I made them there to help me move on. I'm in a situation now where I have a group of people who believe like you and me. They're passionate. They want to win. We want to play the right brand of soccer. I'm thankful for the stadium we have and the atmosphere we bring. I wish I could still play. In the end, for me it's loving what you're doing and having passion for it. Just being an honest person with integrity. I can only try my best, and build with a lot of good people around me. I feel I have good instincts, and the success will follow."
Klopas did not drop the ball on his top coaching choices, but that can't stop us from some of our own constructive speculating. Coming up is my personal Top 3 list for who the Fire should bring to the helm.