If the Frank Klopas era as manager of the Chicago Fire is over today - and every source, public and private, agrees it will be - it will apparently be as part of a general front-office cleanout:
- Klopas is to be relieved of managerial duties, though whether he's being fired, full-stop, has not yet been announced;
- Fire President of Soccer Operations Javier Leon has moved to Mexico City, and apparently is being reassigned within Andell Holdings;
- Rumors have the axe being readied for Guillermo Petrei, the somewhat mysterious Vice-President of Soccer Operations for the club, and Rafael Carmona, the Director of Scouting.
Essentially, everyone with direct responsibility for player acquisition - long a sore spot for the club, as noted with increasing frustration by this and other outlets - is being let go.
But it's Frank everyone will miss. Fifteen years ago today, Klopas' goal gave the Chicago Fire their first of four US Open Cup titles - fifteen years ago exactly, a fact which led Ring of Fire member Peter Wilt to tweet:
On the 15th Anniversary of Frank Klopas scoring the most memorable goal in team history, @ChicagoFire plans to fire him. Poor timing. #CF97— peter wilt (@PeterWilt1) October 30, 2013
Klopas was a passionate leader on the sideline, but this is how I will always remember him.
Klopas took over running the club on May 30, 2011, after the firing of the disastrous Carlos de los Cobos, stepping down from his Technical Director spot to take the interim manager label. Now, two years and 153 days later, he's to be given his walking papers.
Aided by a knack for retooling on the fly, our Greek club legend led the Fire to a stirring recovery that first season, as the club finished 7-2-1 over the last 10 games in 2011. That 22-points-in-10-games stretch was enough to convince investor/operator Andrew Hauptman to remove the ‘interim' tag and make Klopas the manager full-time.
Frank's time on the sidelines was characterized by a certain kind of streakiness in the team, and 2012 was a good example of that tendency. After challenging for primacy in the East through the summer and into the fall, the Fire faded badly late in the season, falling to fourth in the conference and then toothlessly surrendering to Houston in a single-game playoff at Toyota Park.
This season, then, was to be his defining test, and it couldn't have started more poorly. Injuries to talismanic center back Arne Friedrich and a lack of fitness all through the club condemned the Men in Red to a 2-7-2 start, and the familiar midseason scramble was underway. The acquisition of Bakary Soumare and, most notably, MVP candidate Mike Magee led to another surge - after Magee, the Fire's record was best in the league.
But the pathetic start to the season, and the constant scrambling quality to roster makeup and game-day approach, finally catches up to Klopas today. Before 2011, the Fire had failed to make the playoffs twice; now it's three times in four years.
We'll miss you, Fotios Klopas. Here's to better times, for you and for our beloved club.