Frank Klopas might stay on as Fire coach
By Len Ziehm Special to Sun-Times Media October 23, 2011 6:34PM
Chicago Fire v D.C. United
Updated: January 23, 2012 3:08AM
The Fire, which finished its season with a 3-2 victory Saturday over the Columbus Crew, doesn’t have a coach lined up for next season. Frank Klopas, who has handled the job since May 31 on an interim basis, might continue in that role, but it’s not a given yet.
‘‘In the next couple of weeks, we’ll sit down to make the best decision going forward for the Fire,’’ Klopas said. ‘‘We’ll do it as a group. A lot of people are involved. We’re going to evaluate.’’
Klopas, who has been the Fire’s full-time technical director, will huddle with California-based owner Andrew Hauptman; Javier Leon, managing director of Hauptman’s Andell Sports Group; and Fire president Julian Posada. He made it clear after the season finale that’s he’s not against staying on.
‘‘I’ll be back somewhere; I don’t know exactly,’’ Klopas said. ‘‘I’ve enjoyed my professional job, especially what I’ve done here as interim coach with this group of guys. I’ve always believed in this group.’’
Klopas, whose only head-coaching experience before this season was two seasons with the Chicago Storm, a defunct indoor team, directed a dramatic turnaround.
The Fire had struggled mightily under coach Carlos de los Cobos. After winning only two of its first 24 games, the Fire rallied to finish at the .500 level (9-9-16) in Major League Soccer’s regular season and reached the final in the U.S. Open Cup under Klopas.
But the Fire didn’t win the Open Cup and missed the MLS playoffs for the second consecutive year and third time in its 14 seasons.
De los Cobos was the coach during last season’s disappointing 9-12-9 campaign, and the Fire didn’t show improvement this season until Klopas took over. Under his direction, the Fire was 8-5-10 across all competitions and finished on a 7-2-1 run in a failed attempt to make the playoffs. The Fire also had a 6-3-8 record at Toyota Park — a big improvement over the last two seasons.
Though the season is over, Klopas will keep the team together for training seasons until Nov. 18 before sending the players on vacation. The ones who are retained will tentatively begin preseason training for 2012 on Jan. 17 in Florida.
The group that returns for next season will include Argentine midfielder Sebastian Grazzini, the late-season acquisition who had five goals and four assists in an 11-game stint marred by hamstring problems. Two other late-season contributors, striker Diego Chaves and midfielder Pavel Pardo, have said they want to return but aren’t under contract. Klopas doesn’t anticipate another mass overhaul of the roster.
‘‘Last year at this point, we had to replace a lot of players,’’ he said. ‘‘With this group right now, there’s a very good core of players.’’