CHICAGO – During Andrew Hauptman's six full seasons as owner, the Chicago Fire have hired and parted ways with three head coaches, all of whom came in with no MLS head coaching background.
This time, he went with experience.
After the Fire announced on Wednesday that Hauptman and the club had parted ways with coach Frank Klopas and president of soccer operations Javier Leon, he acted swiftly by hiring two-time MLS Coach of the Year and two-time MLS Cup winner Frank Yallop to fill both roles.
“I always go into every situation assuming that it's for the long, and I think, like with anything, you learn, and you get smarter and you make certain decisions with your heart, you make certain decisions with your head,” Hauptman said Thursday at Yallop's introductory press conference. “In this particular circumstance, I would say I'm making the decision 100 percent with my head.”
Unlike in the past, when Klopas, who was technical director before he became coach, and Leon had the ultimate responsibility with soccer personnel decisions from the front office, Yallop will have the final say on all soccer decisions.
Yallop has stated over the years that he covets that amount of responsibility.
“I feel that with my experience in the league, I've learned a lot,” the former Canadian international said. “I feel that the player decisions that I'm going to have here will impact me on the field.
"Yes, I'll have a team of people working on the same goal. But any final decision on who get into the club will be me, and that was something I was looking for, and I think that's something that I'm very excited about, and I think it's what Andrew was looking for also.”
Hauptman said he developed a relationship with Yallop over the years through his relationship with San Jose Earthquakes co-owner Lew Wolff, which allowed him to make a quick hire after parting ways with Klopas on Tuesday night.
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Yallop had been heavily linked to the Vancouver Whitecaps job, recently vacated by Martin Rennie, which would have brought him close to his family. But when he was offered the job in Chicago, he couldn't turn it down.
“All my family is from Vancouver, but Andrew wanted me,” Yallop said. “It was a swift decision. I said, ‘Let's do this.’ … Andrew's the one that really pushed it and made me feel very welcome in this job and making sure that we're going in the right direction.”
Hauptman said the entire soccer staff will still be under evaluation, but he said vice president of soccer operations Guillermo Petrei is still with the club – at least for now.
Chicago have brought in eight Designated Players over the years, but only Cuauhtémoc Blanco made a significant impact for at least one full season. That disappointing hit rate has contributed to the Fire missing the playoffs during the last four seasons and losing in the Knockout Round in 2012.
Hauptman seems to think Yallop's track record shows that he'll be able to reel in more productive players.
“If you increase that hit rate just marginally, the exponential benefit, we all know,” Hauptman said. “I think one of the reasons for me, having Frank in this role, why I'm so excited about it is he's proven the ability to identify talent, often within financial parameters that are, if you will, more constrained than what we have with the Fire.”