BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Frank Klopas has been a constant presenece at the Chicago Fire for almost the entirety of Andrew Hauptman's six years as owner of the club, first as technical director, then as coach.
Over dinner last night, Hauptman and Klopas agreed to part ways, though the team did leave open the possibility of the Fire original staying with the club in some capacity, Fire communications director Dan Lobring said. President of soccer operations Javier Leon also stepped down, the club announced Wednesday.
“Frank should be incredibly proud of that accomplishment and what he's done with this organization,” captain Logan Pause told MLSsoccer.com. “As a player, moving up into the front office as a technical director and a coach, it's an amazing thing. ... Not many people can say that they've done that. Not many people will be able to say that they've done that. That's definitely something that should be honored, what he's meant to this club.”
After spending three-and-a-half years as technical director, Klopas was named interim coach midway though the 2011 season, when the Fire were 1-4-6 after firing coach Carlos de los Cobos. Chicago ended the season on a 7-2-1 tear, narrowly missing the playoffs, and the interim tag was removed.
After the Chicago native led the Fire to a 17-11-6 record in 2012, his team stumbled out of the gate in 2013, starting 2-7-1, but they were in the playoff picture until a 5-2 loss to New York in Sunday's finale put them in sixth place, only out of a playoff spot by virtue of having scored four fewer goals than the Montreal Impact.
“Since he's been here, it was really consistent until pretty much until the start of this year,” midfielder Patrick Nyarko told MLSsoccer.com. “We struggled a little bit, so looking at that standpoint, I think he did a great job getting those results we needed. We missed the playoffs by a couple of points, on the last day of the season. We were having a difficult time two-and-a-half years ago, and he almost led us to the playoffs. I think he's done a tremendous job.”
The fate of the remaining members of the Chicago coaching staff will be decided by the new soccer operations staff, Lobring said.
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Klopas was the fourth head coach during Hauptman's time with the Fire, which began late in the 2007 season. Since then, Juan Carlos Osorio left and Denis Hamlett, de los Cobos, and Klopas were shown the door.
Since the team was owned by AEG, when Bob Bradley and Dave Sarachan coached the team for nine-and-a-half years combined, stability has been in short supply for Chicago, and they haven't won any trophies.
“Honestly, it's tough. You pretty much want stability,” Nyarko said. “Every couple of years, you see the turnover, the changes in coaching and stuff like that. It's tough. But I know the organization has good intentions, and they're trying to achieve something, to win a championship, and they're going to every extent to bring that here. So they do everything in the best interest of the team.
"On the other hand, you'd think more stability helps build a more formidable team. The more of the core guys we keep here every year and keep building, the better it is for the team. It hurts to always try to rebuild and start every year.”