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An early reflection on the 2011 season...

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The lifeblood of the Fire.
The lifeblood of the Fire.

It will take a week or two to let everything settle in my mind and get a proper season wrap up piece out.  However, I have been thinking of a couple of things in restrospect the past couple of days and I felt now would be a good time to discuss those things.  The past couple of months have been a roller coaster for Fire fans.  I think most of us would agree that it hasn't been that long when we all felt we were playing for a high draft pick and nothing else.  CDLC had been fired, Klopas had come in and secured the defense, but the results still weren't coming.  I can be counted as one of those that thought Klopas was in over his head and shouldn't be retained.  I am happy to say that I was wrong and I think Frank should have the chance to take over as head coach on a full time basis.  That is of course if he wants it.  Follow me after the break for a little more explanation on this and another point of discussion.

As soon as Frank stepped in, there seemed to be a shift in the team.  Obviously the additions of Pardo and Grazzini would also help, but the team seemed to change when CDLC was fired and Frank assumed control on an interim basis.  I think it is a case of the players struggling under CDLC's system and the eventual relief that his dismissal brought.  The defense immediately seemed to bunker down.  Even though the Fire wouldn't start putting things together for a couple of months, Klopas brought a new meaning and drive to the team that they had been lacking.

While at times I have disagreed with his tactical planning and especially his use of substitutions, I think he will learn as time goes by assuming he takes over the head coach role.  When Klopas first took over, he said that it was temporary and a head coach search would commence in due time after the season was over.  As time went by, Frank would hint that he enjoyed the position and may want to take it over on a full time basis.  As I said, despite being an opponent of this idea early on, Frank has shown me he is able to lead a team and get them motivated when it counts.  I would be fine if he decides to keep the role.  The question then becomes does someone else need to take over as Technical Director.  Although Frank has certainly brought in busts (I'm looking at you Collins John and especially Nery Castillo), he was also instrumental in bringing in some good players at a good value.  Gaston Puerari and Diego Chaves are two examples.  Although Gaston was sold to Atlas this year, early on he definitely made some things happen.  And although Diego started off hot and then disappeared for a long stretch, he came up really big recently when the Fire needed it.  If you add Pavel Pardo and Sebastian Grazzini to the great signings list, Klopas has definitely done an admirable job this past year.

If he does retain the head coach role, then it should only happen if he has an adequate replacement that can help take the Fire to the next level.  Of course Frank will have a say in personnel acquisitions, but the Front Office is really going to have to make things happen.  And although it looked like we needed a lot for a good portion of the season, the past couple of months have really told the tale.  The reality is that we do need some pieces here or there, but smart, prudent additions can really make us a serious contender next year.  The obvious glaring need is a striker.  That goes without saying.  While Oduro was a surprise, we need that legit, dependable striker.  Teams may solve Oduro yet or he might have been showing the best streak he'll ever have in his career.  It would be risky to simply count on him repeating his success.

We could also use an attacking midfielder type.  Grazzini has been fabulous, but he is more of a playmaker and distributor.  We could still use a dangerous link between the midfield and the forwards.  Our back line really solidified, and became a strength when early on it seemed a huge liability.  Hopefully a healthy Steve Kinney is also ready to help contribute next season as well.  And of course we are set in goal with the one and only Sean Johnson.  That's not to say we don't have other areas of need or tweaks to be done, but adding 2-3 smart pieces this offseason could really put us back where we belong- on top.  We don't need as much as I thought during the first couple of months of the season.

And that brings me to my final point- the owner.  For those of you that read the site regularly, you will know that I have been critical of Andrew pretty much all this season.  And I still am.  I think he can be a great owner, and I certainly hope he will be.  But now is the time to prove his commitment to the club.  We all know what we need to compete next year.  We certainly have the resources to do it.  The only question is will he make it happen?  It would be nice if the communication factor would be improved.  Honestly, that is probably my biggest issue.  The fact that we don't hear from him much at all.  One Q&A a year doesn't cut it for me, especially for an owner that lives halfway across the country.  Fire fans want to hear the plan for next year and what we are going to do to improve.  Given the current track record however, the odds of that happening seem small.  The Fire have the best and most loyal fans in the MLS.  We deserve to know what is going on with the club and what he has planned for the near and long term future. 

I know that being the owner, he has the right to keep things to himself.  But why?  As an owner, I would personally enjoy interacting with the fans (the ones that support the club I own and keep it going) and I would definitely want them to be in the loop of what is happening/planned.  That is all I am asking.  When he remains quiet, all we can do is draw our own conclusions.  And that certainly is not conducive to a feeling of confidence.  Simply saying how you are disappointed in not making the playoffs again but you would do all you can to build the team in the offseason would be a good step.  Yes, it could just be lip service, but it's better than nothing at all.  I am not feeling confident, as I am sure many of us aren't, because we don't know if the dedication and drive to have a winning franchise is there in the owner.  We are used to being successful and winning a lot, and we deserve to get back to that place.  I hope Andrew is the one to take us there.  From all the Fire fans Andrew, please talk to us and help restore the Fire to our rightful place- at the top of the MLS.