OTF Roundtable 2013: The Coda

(photos: mlssoccer.com)

(photos: mlssoccer.com)

Each and every week during the 2013 season, OTF contributors had their say on our Men in Red. Here’s their collective swan song…

Lucas Hammer

Well, Frank Klopas is gone. I’m not surprised, but I’m a little bummed out. Part of it is that he’s a Chicago legend, and part of it is Hauptman had the balls to axe Frank on the anniversary of his U.S. Open Cup-winning goal 15 years ago. That said, a change needed to happen. I want Klopas to land on his feet wherever he goes, and I’m always going to respect him. There were good and bad decisions during his tenure, and overall, I think he did a decent job. But Frank Klopas is out because decent simply isn’t good enough anymore.

I’m excited to see what Frank Yallop can do with a team that still appears to have most of the pieces in place for a deep playoff run. Love or hate his tactics, Yallop is a coach who has won coaching accolades and trophies – something Chicago has needed for a while now.

Next year, I think the change could propel the Fire into the type of season they haven’t seen in far too long. If Yallop is allowed to have as much control as all reports say he will, I think he will fill in the missing pieces and put the Fire on track for a postseason run, and perhaps the Supporters Shield. After six years without, some silverware is long overdue. If the first team doesn’t see too much turnover (except possibly bringing in some defenders), I expect 2014 to be better in every way.

Stephen Mangat

This season the Chicago Fire underperformed due to Frank Klopas’s consistent failure to get his tactics correct. He didn’t play to his team’s strengths (attacking) and he didn’t address its shortcomings (unreliable back four). Since he could neither take advantage of what the team did well, nor fix what it did poorly, he had to go.

Underneath Klopas’s bumbling laid questionable training and conditioning methods and a technical staff who failed to adequately beef up the back line. All told, there were plenty of reasons to give Frank Klopas and Director of Soccer Operations Javier Leon their walking papers. But owner Andrew Hauptman shouldn’t stop there. He should dismiss his entire soccer operations staff and rebuild. Maybe Frank Yallop will do it for him.

Mark Rogers

I’ve been a pessimistic jerk most of the season (or realistic, take your pick), but I’m ready to turn a new leaf with Chicago Fire. Frank Klopas is out, and Frank Yallop is in. Out goes a legendary Fire player/technical director/coaching intern who seemingly selected players by throwing darts blindfolded. In comes a manager who has a history of developing talent, winning silverware, and frugally picking up solid players.

Yallop may not be a sexy hiring, and may not often employ sexy tactics, but that’s okay. Remember how folks were complaining about the dump-and-run Goonies last year, their ugly style of play? You know who wasn’t complaining? San Jose Earthquakes fans. They had a team that clawed, fought, and battled for 90 minutes. They also set positive scoring records and won the Supporters Shield. Their leader, Yallop, won MLS Coach of the Year. I don’t care if the Men in Red play like Barça or Stoke, as long as they’re competing for silverware.

The 2012 Earthquakes embodied the ideas of “Tradition. Honor. Passion.” The Fire didn’t showcase their slogan under Klopas, and I suspect Yallop wouldn’t have settled for some of the Fire’s lazy performances these past few seasons. As Fire fans, I hope we can agree that all we want is a team that gives it their all for 90 minutes every match. Klopas and friends never gave us that, often only playing hard during the first or second half.

Personally, I can’t wait to see what Frank Yallop puts together. Is he a sure-fire success? Nope. But the Fire aren’t gambling with this choice.

Juan Santoliva

Frank Klopas is a valuable member of the Chicago Fire family and will always be regarded as a legend. Unfortunately, this only holds true for Frank Klopas the player, not Frank Klopas the gaffer.

The decision to move on without “The Kid” is the correct one. Klopas had a deep squad at his disposal and often went with the wrong tactics and substitutions. On occasion, he made good choices (playing attack-minded soccer), but went back to his old habits without fail (two defensive center midfielders). Inconsistency and a failure to find and stick with the right tactics ultimately cost Klopas his job.

I applaud owner Andrew Hauptman for quickly cutting Klopas loose, then immediately turning around and hiring Frank Yallop. It was a shock, but a pleasant one. Now the team can move forward and get to work without the feeling of being in limbo. I didn’t get what I’d hoped for in wild-card Eric Wynalda, but Hauptman’s choice is still a good one.

I’m excited about the Frank Yallop hire. He brings the attitude and toughness that Klopas failed to imbue into his squads. Yallop will demand 100% from every single player for 90 minutes and hold them accountable both on and off the field. This is a good change for Chicago and I believe Frank Yallop will bring the grit and uncompromising leadership that Chicago sports fans appreciate.

It’ll be an interesting off-season, so let’s sit back, watch the show, and look forward to March.

Rob Thompson

The hiring of Frank Klopas as head coach of Chicago Fire in 2011 was one of the major reasons I came back to American soccer after a decade absence. I recall Klopas’s playing days before Chicago Fire, his service to the US National Men’s Team, and his contributions to the Fire in their inaugural season. For me, with Klopas, there was a connection that eased my return to being a Chicago Fire Supporter.

All that said, his “resignation” as Head Coach this week was necessary. Sure, there were some great moments and somewhat successful campaigns, but Klopas’s two and a half seasons on the sideline, in sum, just wasn’t good enough. Professional soccer, for better or worse, is a results-based business and he teetered in the land of MLS mediocrity.

What’s interesting to consider is whether we’d be discussing Klopas’s departure had the Fire made the playoffs this season. My gut tells me, yes. Why? Too many players came and went during the Klopas era. Some, like Sebastian Grazzini, for inexplicable reasons. Others, like Sherjill MacDonald, were high-priced designated players who were mistakes.

Yesterday, owner Andrew Hauptman announced a new era in Chicago Fire’s history by presenting Frank Yallop as his new Head Coach and Director of Soccer. Yallop is a man who brings a sterling MLS pedigree and little ego. He should be a good fit for a club that needs reorganization on many fronts. Most importantly, he’s a proven leader.

T.J. Zaremba

I think Jim Hughson, lead NHL announcer for CBC, summed up the end of Chicago Fire’s playoff run when he said, “One point in your life you have what you want, or the reason you don’t.” During the last six or seven weeks of the 2013 MLS regular season, the Men in Red received help from other teams to stay in contention for the playoffs. However, last weekend, they received none and could not complete the mission on their own.

As for the entire season, a rant by former NFL head coach Jim Mora captured the feeling I had way too often after Chicago Fire matches in 2013:

“Well, what happened was, that second game, we got our ass kicked. In the second half, we just got our ass totally kicked. We couldn’t do diddly-poo offensively, we couldn’t make a first down, we couldn’t run the ball, we didn’t try to run the ball, we couldn’t complete a pass – we sucked. The second half, we sucked. We couldn’t stop the run. Every time they got the ball, they went down and got points. We got our ass totally kicked in the second half – that’s what it boiled down to. It was a horse shit performance in the second half. Horse shit. I’m totally embarrassed and totally ashamed. Coaching did a horrible job. The players did a horrible job. We got our ass kicked in that second half. It sucked. It stunk.”

The lack of adjustments, the outstanding scoring chances missed, the substitutions for their own sake, and the killer late goals doomed this once proud, winning club to yet another season of futility. As such, men paid the price with their jobs, which is the nature of pro sports. There will be others too. 

For any fan of Chicago Fire, or Chicago soccer in general, this week’s events were painful, but necessary. No one (even the Editor of this fine fanzine) enjoyed seeing a legend like Frank Klopas, a man dedicated to the club and its city, lose his job. But no matter how you look at it, the status quo was not acceptable. Based on the regression in results from last year, there were two logical conclusions: 1) Either this team was talented enough to win and the gaffer could not get it done, or 2) This squad, which Frank, along with Javier Leon, was responsible for putting together, didn’t have enough talent.

So, after a season of one misstep after another for Chicago Fire, Andrew Hauptman correctly asked Klopas and Leon to step down. The awful start, the US Open Cup debacle, and the point giveaways late in games during the playoff stretch all culminated in the disaster that was the finale in New York. This Monday morning, it was clear that Frank Klopas was not the answer as manager. It made no sense to delay the inevitable house-cleaning.

I give Andrew Hauptman credit for going in a bold new direction by hiring the pedigreed Frank Yallop as Director of Soccer and Head Coach. Hauptman stole Yallop away from his homecoming, his Vancouver coronation, and showed me, perhaps for the first time, that he is committed to rekindling the sense of “Tradition, Honor, and Passion” in Bridgeview. While an MLS retread was not the direction I thought the team should go (I wanted a successful college coach like Louis Bennett from Marquette), the hiring of someone like Frank Yallop has renewed my hope and faith in the franchise.

****

If you’re a die-hard Chicago Fire fan who’d like to take part in the OTF Roundtable, please send Scott Fenwick an email at manonthefire97@gmail.com to find out how to get in on the conversation and make your voice heard! Cheers.

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One thought on “OTF Roundtable 2013: The Coda

  1. This was a great wrap up piece. Pretty much what most of us felt – a little weak on the coaching , and not quite enough horse power. I hope the Kid lands on his feet and that Coach Y gets what he needs to move things in a better direction.

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