Fire find their man in de los Cobos

Carlos de los Cobos entered the Chicago Fire's eye during the CONCACAF qualifying campaign for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The Fire introduced de los Cobos as their fifth coach Monday at a Toyota Park press conference, replacing Denis Hamlett, who was not re-signed following the 2009 season.

After spending time as a coach in the Mexican leagues and working as a coach for Mexican national teams, de los Cobos took over the reins of an El Salvador national team aiming to qualify for the World Cup in South Africa this year. The team made it to the final round of qualifying but finished last in the group of six, with a record of 2-6-2 with a 2-2 tie at home against the United States and 2-1 home win against Mexico.

Fire technical director Frank Klopas was watching and was impressed.

"I knew him as a coach, and when I watch games, I not only watch players on the field, I see the coaches," Klopas said Monday. "When he decided he wasn't going back with El Salvador, the possibility was there. It was maybe a long shot at the time, but when I met him, we felt very strong that this was a top candidate."

The Fire had to urge de los Cobos to agree to a meeting, which occurred in Los Angeles as Javier Leon, the managing director of Andell Holdings, the team's ownership group, invited him to a luncheon at a decidedly non-Hispanic restaurant. He hoped to keep the meeting under the radar, but believes a restaurant worker recognized de los Cobos and sent out the word via Twitter that he was in the States.

At that meeting, Leon recognized de los Cobos as somebody else, somebody with a very significant status among Fire fans.

"When I sat down with Carlos, Bob Bradley came to mind," Leon said, referring to the first coach of the Fire who is now the coach of the U.S. national team. "It's based on his integrity. That is the kind of guy he is, somebody who is going to come here and work hard and get results."

Leon said de los Cobos' results in El Salvador were all the proof he needed that he was a coach who could accomplish great things.

"We saw what happened in El Salvador," Leon said. "That is a track record. He took a group of young kids who no one believed in, there was no belief in El Salvador, and he was able in less than four years to put together a (competitive) team."

Kent McDill is a contributor to MLSnet.com.