In the aftermath of Wednesday's game, many people have declared that Frank Klopas was out-coached by Dominic Kinnear. I do not disagree with this, but I also think it oversimplifies things. Dominic Kinnear versus Frank Klopas at this point in time is not an even fight. Kinnear has been the coach for the Dynamo organization since 2004 when they were still in San Jose. He has had 8 years to get the players that he needs, to implement a culture, an identity, and a system within the club. Meanwhile, Frank is only in his first year (one of only two first year coaches to make it to the post-season) and he is still working with some constraints that new coaches have to deal with.
Dominic Kinnear is a prime example of not having these constraints. During the season, Kinnear experimented with a 4-3-3 formation with decent results. Unfortunately, his 4-3-3 did not work out so well the last time the Dynamo visited Toyota Park. This time around, Kinnear had his Dynamo revert back to the tried and true 4-4-2 and do what they do best - playing physical and winning set pieces. This sort of flexibility in tactical changes are a bit easier for coaches who have established themselves at their club. Klopas does not have this same luxury just yet as he is still building the team he wants.
This past off season, Klopas faced a few large set backs for a new coach who is trying to turn around an organization. Two of Klopas' big off season signings, Rafael Robayo and Federico Puppo, did not work out, and both players were out of Chicago before the halfway point of the season. Sebastian Grazzini, who Frank had brought in and had been instrumental in the late playoff push at the end of 2011, essentially forced the Fire to get rid of him over the summer. These factors left the Fire and Frank Klopas worse off in the middle of the season than they were when the season started.
The mid-season acquisitions the Fire made were hugely important for the team making the playoffs. Bringing in a Dutchman named Sherjill MacDonald, swapping Marco Pappa for Alvaro Fernandeez and bringing back Chris Rolfe threw a curve ball at the league for a nice streak of wins in August and September to help get the Fire into the playoffs. The league eventually caught on, however, and the Fire won only once in their final 6 matches.
This Fire team's game is the same as it was last year but with better players. Kinnear knew what the Fire were going to throw at his squad. When it comes down to the tactics Frank employed on Wednesday, he was working with what he had built so far in short coaching tenure and sticking with what got the Fire into the playoffs. A lot of people are saying that Frank should have tried something different. Experimenting in the playoffs is a bad idea, and the Fire do not have the luxury of depth to swap different players in and out of the lineup.
The lack of depth the Fire have is partially attributable to the amount of player turnover the past few seasons. This season, the Fire were still purging itself of the Carlos de los Cobos era. Now that the Fire have one full season of soccer between themselves and CDLC, the purging should be complete. Klopas has a good team nucleus set, and he is starting to build a team first culture in the locker room. This culture is evident in interviews with players, coaches and Front Office staff.
The next season is going to be very important for Frank Klopas and the Fire organization. They have a lot of the right pieces in place, but there is a lot more building to be done. If Klopas gets the right pieces this off season, I expect we will still a bit more experimenting and tweaking. Next time Klopas and Kinnear meet, things will be much more even.