Chicago Fire part ways with head coach Ezra Hendrickson

Ezra Hendrickson CHI

Chicago Fire FC have parted ways with head coach Ezra Hendrickson after Matchday 11 of the 2023 MLS season, the club announced Monday morning.

The club currently sits 14th in the Eastern Conference table (second from last) with 10 points from a 2W-3L-5D record. This past Saturday, they suffered a 3-0 defeat at Nashville SC and have struggled to hold onto leads late in games.

Klopas takes over

With Hendrickson’s exit, Chicago have named Frank Klopas head coach for the remainder of the 2023 season. He was previously Chicago’s head coach from 2011-13, plus held a brief interim stint at the end of 2021. Klopas, who led CF Montréal from 2013-15, has held numerous roles with the Fire over the last 25-plus years.

Additionally, the Fire have parted ways with assistant coach Junior González. Assistant coach C.J. Brown and goalkeeper coach Zach Thornton will remain in their current roles.

“This was a difficult decision, but after careful consideration, we felt that a change was necessary at this time as we work toward our goal of advancing to the playoffs and competing for trophies,” Chicago sporting director Georg Heitz said in a release.

“We’d like to thank Ezra and Junior for their efforts during the past two seasons, and we wish them all the best in their future endeavors.”

Big picture

Hendrickson, 51, took over the Fire before the 2022 campaign and amassed a 13W-19L-14D record with the club across all competitions. Before joining the Fire, the former MLS defender developed a reputation as one of the league’s top assistant coaches during his time at Seattle Sounders FC, LA Galaxy and Columbus Crew.

Hendrickson’s dismissal marks Chicago’s third coaching change in the last half-decade. The club parted ways with Veljko Paunović in 2019, and then Raphael Wicky in 2021. All the while, the Fire have made the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs twice since 2010, and have suffered Round One exits in both years they qualified (2012, ‘17).

Looking forward, Chicago have a mix of youth and veterans to lean upon. The former group includes US youth internationals such as goalkeeper Chris Brady and midfielder Brian Gutiérrez, as well as U22 Initiative midfielder Federico Navarro. From the latter group, center back/captain Rafael Czichos, midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri and striker Kei Kamara are key pieces. Shaqiri, their club-record signing, has fallen under criticism in 2023 as his on-field impact wanes. Kamara is closing in on second in the MLS all-time goals chart, sitting two off Landon Donovan’s 145.

Chicago return to league play Saturday evening when hosting expansion side St. Louis CITY SC (1:00 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).