Fire dismisses coach Frank Klopas, president Javier Leon
BY SETH GRUEN Staff Reporter October 30, 2013 10:12AM
Chicago Fire head coach Frank Klopas has been dismissed. | Getty Images
Updated: October 30, 2013 10:30PM
Since Andrew Hauptman purchased the Fire in 2007, the team has gone through four presidents and four coaches.
The latest victims came Wednesday, when the Fire dismissed coach Frank Klopas and president of soccer operations Javier Leon after failing to make the playoffs this season.
Klopas’ firing came on a day he would otherwise be honored by the organization. Today is the 15th anniversary of the Fire’s 1998 U.S. Open Cup championship when Klopas, a player for the Fire from 1998 until his retirement in 1999, scored the game-winning goal.
Since Hauptman took over the club, it has gone through four team presidents and four coaches. Leon most recently held the dual role of president of soccer operations and managing director of Andell Sports Group, which is the holding company for the club.
In the last 11 months, the Fire has gone through two presidents in Leon and Julian Posada, who stepped down Dec. 19, 2012. At the time of Posada’s departure, Hauptman wrote an open letter to fans that was posted on the Fire’s website, but team officials declined to comment on the situation further.
The dismissal of Klopas, a Chicago soccer icon who led Mather to a Public League championship and scored the winning goal for the Fire in the U.S. Open Cup title game on Oct. 30, 1998 — exactly 15 years before he was let go — is a curious decision.
Klopas was hired as technical director in 2008, then took over as interim coach after the Fire dismissed Carlos de los Cobos in 2011. Despite a poor start in 2011, the Fire nearly made the playoffs that season.
In 2012, Klopas guided the Fire to a 17-11-6 record before it fell in a single-elimination game in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Injuries at the start of the 2013 season left the Fire in a 2-7-2 hole. The biggest was to center back Arne Friedrich, a German World Cup veteran, who was forced to retire because of a hip injury.
But the Fire rallied to finish 14-13-7, falling just short of the playoffs. The team lost its season finale 5-2 on Sunday to the New York Red Bulls. It would have clinched a playoff spot with a victory.
Success has never deterred Hauptman from making a coaching change.
Denis Hamlet was fired on Nov. 24, 2009, after he guided the club to the Eastern Conference finals that season. In both his seasons as coach, Hamlett took the team to the conference finals.
The history of turnover in the organization might make it difficult for Hauptman to find replacements for Klopas and Leon. Though, in fairness, the club did announce that its search only began Wednesday. The Fire didn’t indicate whether it would look to replace Leon or Klopas first.
‘‘No one appreciates Frank’s passion, integrity and competitive spirit more than me,’’ Hauptman said in a statement. ‘‘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.’’