New boss Klopas wary of drastic change in Chicago
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — There’s no doubt that Frank Klopas is committed to returning the Chicago Fire to the MLS elite.
“Myself and the staff [are going to] do everything humanly possible to prepare the guys and give them every opportunity to be successful,” Klopas said on Tuesday, one day after he was installed as the club’s interim head coach. “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.
“I’m from the city,” he added. “For me, it’s more personal.”
While there aren’t any questions about his commitment, there are a few regarding his ability to turn the Fire around. After all, Klopas is the technical director who assembled a Fire squad that has largely underachieved this season.
Is he really going to be able to make that much of an impact on Chicago’s results — especially considering he’s coming in midseason? Judging by his comments, he thinks he will.
“I feel very comfortable as a coach,” Klopas said. “I feel like I have a responsibility, bringing in a lot of the players on the field. I know them well, I’ve been with them all through preseason, I’ve been with them for a very long time and I know their capabilities. I feel very confident as a coach because I believe in my players.”
If Klopas turns the Fire around, it won’t be due to any drastic changes in strategy. He told reporters on Tuesday that he’ll likely stick with the traditional 4-4-2 formation that the Fire has used for about half of this year.
“This is not a time when you’re experimenting with stuff,” Klopas said. “You do stuff like that in preseason, when you have two months to be figuring stuff out. I think we just have to fine-tune certain things … and that’s what we’re going to do. But this is not a team where you’re experimenting.”
One thing Klopas will try to change is his team’s set-piece defending. The Fire have given up the third-most goals in the league this year, conceding 19 times in total and seven times on set plays.
“You look at the team and there are certain things we need to address and get better at,” he said. “We’ve given up seven set-piece goals — we have to address that.”
Though Klopas assembled this team and is now coaching it, he doesn’t feel like this season is make-or-break for him. He’s just concentrated on getting the Fire back amongst the league’s best, and willing to go far to get them there.
“I don’t feel like it’s make-or-break at all,” he said. “I know what I’m involved in, but that’s not going through my mind one minute. I love what I do with the opportunity, not only to be involved with the Fire but to do something that I love doing. I can tell you that’s not something I think about. If it happens, it happens, but I’m going to do everything possible to make sure [we’re successful].”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.