Fire players thrilled to have Klopas back on bench in 2012

Frank Klopas and Dan Gargan

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BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Towards the end of the season, many Chicago Fire players came out and said that they wanted Frank Klopas back on the bench in 2012. They got their wish on Thursday, when the club removed the interim tag from Klopas’ title and made him the sixth full-time head coach in team history.

“I think there’s no better person for the job,” Fire goalie Sean Johnson told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. “We’re excited and I’m definitely looking forward to next year with Frank as head coach.”

Klopas won the hearts of the locker room almost immediately after taking over for former head coach Carlos de los Cobos in late May, keeping a struggling team working hard through what was a rough first two-thirds of the season. That work paid off at the end of the year, with the Fire finishing the season on a strong 7-2-3 run.

Defender Dan Gargan arrived in Chicago in late July and was struck by Klopas’s enthusiasm right off the bat.

“I think one of Frank’s best qualities that I’ve seen is the true and honest passion that he has for this club,” Gargan said. “He certainly instilled that in his players and you could feel how much he cared about results and putting a good effort on the field every time we stepped on it.

"The consistent effort and the passion that he comes to training with and to games with – it’s contagious," he added. "I think that the team is excited to see what more he can offer in what is a more comfortable position.”

Hiring Klopas will give the Fire continuity heading into next season, a sorely missed commodity in 2011 when the club added 20 new players and experienced change on the coaching staff.

“It’s definitely a setback to have that type of turnover,” Gargan said. “As exciting as new ideas and really sending your club in a different direction can be, it’s hard for everyone involved because there’s that growth period. I think that with Frank remaining in place moving forward, there’s a certain idea and understanding [already in place]. I think that people in the locker room are excited about the direction that we can go in.”

Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at sam.h.stejskal@gmail.com.