Brian Kersey/Chicago Fire
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – The cat’s officially out of the bag: Frank Klopas is finally the Chicago Fire’s full-time head coach.
Klopas, who compiled an 8-5-10 record in five months as Chicago’s interim head coach, was unveiled by team owner Andrew Hauptman as the sixth coach in team history at a press conference on Thursday. The former Fire striker is the first ex-Chicago player to take over as head coach.
The Chicago-raised Klopas was visibly emotional at the press conference, calling it “an amazing feeling” to be named head coach of the club with whom he finished his playing career.
“It’s really hard for me to kind of express myself and put in words what I really feel,” Klopas said. “I feel honored, I feel very blessed and I’m very thankful for the opportunity to be the head coach and to lead this great organization forward. … This is special day, not only in my professional life, but in my life in general.”
Hauptman said at the press conference that Klopas will no longer serve as Chicago’s technical director, a job he’s held since January 2008. Klopas will still be the point man for first-team personnel decisions, but he’ll cede some of his former responsibilities with the team’s academy and other youth teams to Andell Sports managing director Javier León, Fire director of player personnel Mike Jeffries and a third front office employee who will be hired later on.
Hauptman said that the Fire seriously considered “a handful” of other candidates for the head coaching job, but that he thought Klopas might be the right pick from the very beginning.
“It’s about the preparation, the hard work, the little things, and the leadership, and the care that the head coach needs to really bring to the forefront,” Hauptman said. “And I think Frank for me – if I’m being really honest and in my heart of hearts – I really always believed that he was the one.”
Hiring Klopas is a solid step in what should be a welcomingly stable offseason for the Fire. Chicago had massive turnover in the last calendar year, bringing in 20 new players this season and firing former head coach Carlos de los Cobos in May.
Klopas and Hauptman expect this winter to be much different, with both saying that they expect a lot of continuity both on the field and in the front office heading into the 2012 season.
Hauptman in particular made it very clear that he believes in Klopas and the rest of the front office staff’s ability to lead the Fire forward.
“The goal for me in the end of the day, and I think fundamentally this is what this hire is all about, is about putting together a leadership team that I can see leading and managing this club for the long term,” Hauptman said. “I don’t think I’ve participated in a press conference since I’ve owned the team and I certainly haven’t been here for a coaching announcement. So it shouldn’t be lost on anyone that I’m here today.”
Klopas is similarly confident – even if he knows the pressure will be on after two consecutive losing seasons in Chicago.
“I know the situation, but I can tell you one thing: I feel very confident,” Klopas said. “I don’t say this in a cocky way, but I do believe in myself. I can tell you that I will work very hard and I do every day to try to get better, I think that’s very important. I never think about [the other stuff], what will be, will be and I can only control what I can control. Coming in with the right attitude, working hard to get better and working very hard to improve the team, that’s all I can do.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.