BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — The Chicago Fire are ready for a fresh start.
So said new interim coach Frank Klopas on Tuesday in explaining his decision to fire former head coach Carlos de los Cobos after what has been a tremendously disappointing first two months of the 2011 season.
Klopas said he told de los Cobos about the decision on Sunday, one day after the Fire extended their league winless streak to nine games after a 2-2 home draw against San Jose. He added that he and Chicago's director of player personnel, Mike Jeffries, made the decision together.
“The decision isn’t something that happened in one day or two days,” Klopas said. “It’s something that involves many different things, and we just felt at the moment that we had to make a decision for the good of the team.”
As the Fire's technical director, Klopas said he decided to take over the team on an interim basis to ease the transition between coaches.
“This is not something I wanted,” he explained. “I’m a technical director and I love what I do, what I did and what I’ll continue doing. But we made this decision because we felt that the team needed continuity. We’re very familiarized with the players, they know us and the transition will be much smoother than it would’ve been if we brought in someone new at this point in the season and had him learn everything about the team.”
Klopas will likely finish out this season as manager. But the process of finding the Fire’s next head coach will start before then, with Klopas and Jeffries compiling a list of candidates and then interviewing them later in the year.
The former US international said the Fire will look both within MLS and abroad during the search next head coach. De los Cobos, who had no experience with MLS prior to coaching the Fire, was hurt by his lack of familiarity with the league at the start of his tenure.
“We’ll search everywhere,” Klopas said. “I think we’ve got to be adaptable to stuff. It always helps to be familiar with the league and the players, but there are other elements. We need to be adaptable. The search doesn’t stop in this country or with former players or coaches that just rotate around.”
Fire players also reacted to the decision, saying they need to move forward quickly so they can climb back up the table.
“I think Carlos coming to this league and the new culture was a challenge and management felt like the direction needed to change a little bit,” Fire captain Logan Pause said Tuesday. “This is just part of it. I’ve been through more than one of these, they just happen and they’re just part of the business. We need to move forward and try and make a run. We’ve got a big June ahead of us, I feel like we can win some of those games and get back into it.”
Left back Gonzalo Segares said he thinks that de los Cobos’ firing will energize some of the players on the team.
“Now guys are going to work harder to try and look for a spot in the starting 11,” Segares said. “Maybe some guys feel that they didn’t get an opportunity under Carlos and I’m sure that the guys that felt that way are going to try harder to show that they belong in the starting 11.
"That’s going to raise the fighting and intensity in the practices and there should be more hitting and stuff, which is good, I like that. I think that if guys get stuck in in practices they’re going to do that in games too, so I think maybe we need some of that.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.