Chicago Fire part ways with head coach Frank Klopas, president of soccer ops Javier Leon
The Chicago Fire announced on Wednesday that head coach Frank Klopas and president of soccer operations Javier Leon have stepped down effective immediately.
The club will begin the search for their replacements, but no timetable has been set for the new appointments, according to a statement posted on the Fire's official site.
But even a 12-6-6 finish to the season could not see the Fire into the playoffs, as Klopas' squad narrowly missed out after Sunday's season-ending 5-2 loss to the New York Red Bulls.
Klopas' exit ends the tenure of a club icon and native son after two-and-a-half years in the head coaching post. He leaves the club after six years of service as technical director and head coach, in addition to his three years as a Fire player and as a strength and conditioning coach under Bob Bradley from 1998-2000.
The Fire were a combined 39-29-23 in league play under Klopas.
“No one appreciates Frank’s passion, integrity and competitive spirit more than me,” Fire owner Andrew Hauptman said in a club 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.”
“There have been many highlights over these years but I think now is an appropriate time to make a transition to new leadership," Hauptman said. "Of course, making this team compete for championships on a consistent basis is our first priority."
Klopas took over the head coaching post from Carlos de los Cobos in May 2011 after the Fire's 1-4-6 start to that season, eventually leading the Men in Red to a 9-9-16 mark that left them just three points shy of the playoff places.
The World Cup veteran led the Fire to the postseason the following year after a 17-11-6 campaign – their best finish since 2000 – that earned them a home Knockout Round playoff match against the Houston Dynamo. But the Dynamo upset Chicago 2-1 at Toyota Park on Oct. 31, Houston's first step on their run to the MLS Cup final.
The child of Greek immigrants who relocated to Chicago when he was eight, Klopas was a longtime US national team standout and a member of the 1994 World Cup and 1988 Summer Olympic teams.
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He played club soccer in Greece before returning Stateside at the dawn of Major League Soccer, scoring seven goals in 54 appearances over two seasons for the Kansas City Wiz, then joining his hometown club when the Fire entered the league in 1998.
Klopas helped the Men in Red make history with the capture of the MLS Cup and US Open Cup trophies in that inaugural season, retiring at the close of the 1999 season with 50 overall appearances and eight goals in his Fire career.