A Look at the Klopas Era

The old sports saying goes that you have to wait three years before you can accurately assess or evaluate drafts and player acquisitions.  Frank Klopas was hired as Technical Director in January of 2008 and has now begun to shape the on-field product into his vision.  The term "attractive attacking football" was thrown around alot this off season and we've seen some brief glimpses of what Klopas and Carlos De Los Cobos have in mind. 

It's too early to tell how 2010 will end up since there are months to go and several important personnel decisions to be made.  The Fire is currently without a designated player and Wilman Conde's contract situation is up in the air.  Signs seem to point to a return of Cuauhtemoc Blanco but that is nothing more than speculation at this point. 

The following is a recap of the "Klopas era" Fire and the moves made to form the 2010 version of the team. 

2008 MLS SuperDraft (1/18/2008)

Round

Overall

Player

Position

College

Current Status

1st  

7th

Patrick Nyarko

F

Virginia Tech

Chicago Fire starter

1st

12th

Dominic Cervi

G

Tulsa

Celtic FC reserve

2nd

26th

Peter Lowry

M/F

Santa Clara

Chicago Fire starter

3rd

38th

Dwight Barrett

F

Lynn University

Tampa Bay Rowdies FC

3rd

40th

Stephen King

M

Maryland

DC United reserve

4th

54th

Austin Washington

D

Gonzaga

No team; Fire (2008-09)

The 2008 draft was one of Klopas' first tasks as Technical Director of the Fire.  The offseason had been fairly tumultuous with Juan Carlos Osorio's desire to leave the team for New York and the botched handling of starting goalkeeper Matt Pickens' contract renewal.   Osorio's departure proved to be a blessing since the "trade" agreement with New York resulted in the acquisition of the 7th overall pick which ended up netting Patrick Nyarko.  The team's third selection, Peter Lowry is a productive player for the squad today.  Dominic Cervi decided to bypass MLS and head for opportunities in Europe.  Given that this draft netted the team's best player so far this season and another young midfielder who can start, I would classify 2008 as a successful draft year for Klopas. 

Denis Hamlett was named the coach to replace Osorio on January 11 while Klopas was officially named the team's first Technical Director on January 17.  Hamlett, apparently was not the organization's first choice since Houston assistant John Spencer told media outlets that he turned down an offer for the position from the Fire.  Former general manager John Guppy and the Fire parted ways in April.  Dave Greeley was hired as President of the team in August.

2008 MLS Supplemental Draft

Round

Overall

Player

Position

College

Current Status

1st

12th

Kai Kasiguran

M

Messiah College

Harrisburg City Islanders (USL)

2nd

26th

Adrian Bumbut

F

Liberty

Baltimore Blast (MISL)

3rd

40th

Zach Pope

M

Duke

No team; Austin Aztex USL (2009)

4th

47th

Steve Bode

D

U-Wis. Milwaukee

U-Wis. Milwaukee assistant coach

4th

48th

Tim Conway

M

Nyack College

Unknown

The now defunct supplemental draft did not produce much.  The mechanism was basically intended to fill out reserve and developmental rosters.  As a result of revised roster rules implemented in 2009 the supplemental draft was done away with. 

 

Player Acquisitions 2008

Date

Position

Player

Previous Team

Acquired

Current Status

2/2008

F

Andy Herron (b)

Columbus Crew

Free Agent

AD Ramonense starter (Costa Rica)

1/19/08

F

Tomasz Frankowski

Wolverhampton Wanders

Free Agent

Jagiellonia Bialystok starter (Poland)

3/4/08

D

Brandon Prideaux

Colorado Rapids

Waivers

U of Washington assistant coach

4/29/08

D

Lider Marmol

Hercules FC (Spain)

Free Agent

San Martin SJ B National (Argentina)

7/30/08

F

Brian McBride *c

Fulham

Trade

Chicago Fire starter

 The best move made during the season in 2008 was the trade of Chad Barrett and a draft pick for the rights to Brian McBride.  Regardless of what anyone may think about the fuel McBride currently has left in the tank this move was roundly applauded when it was made in 2008.  If I had to make this trade over ten times I would still pull trigger all ten times.  Brandon Prideaux proved to be a fairly dependable defender in 2008 before tailing off and retiring in 2009.  The taffy pull with Osorio and the Red Bulls over Lider Marmol proved to be a waste of time and money.  Marmol could not get on the field and was largely unimpressive when he did manage to get minutes.  Most observers thought Tomasz Frankowski would be a good acquistion before some apparent problems with Denis Hamlett exiled him to the bench after scoring two goals against New England in the home opener. 

It was expected that pairing McBride with Blanco would propel the Fire into contention for MLS Cup.  It did, although the effort fell short after a 2-1 loss in the Eastern Conference Final to the eventual champion Crew in Columbus.  Klopas pulled the strings that needed to be pulled in order to get the team in position to win in 2008. 

  2009 MLS SuperDraft (1/15/2009)

Round

Overall

Player

Position

College

Current Status

2nd

20th

Baggio Husidic

M

U-Illinois of Chicago

Chicago Fire starter

3rd

43rd

David Sias

D

UC Irvine

No team; Austin Aztex USL (2009)

4th

52nd

Jokull Elisabetarson

M

UNC Greensboro

Vikingur (Iceland Division 2)

4th

58th

Richard Jata

M

Campbell University

Unknown

 

 Although 3 of the 4 players selected in the 2009 Superdraft are no longer with the team this draft did produce one quality young player who has shown signs of promise in 2010.  Baggio Husidic has been productive early this year and has earned time on the pitch as a starter.  The 2009 offseason also saw the arrival of undrafted players who are still with the team.

 

   Player Acquisitions 2009

Date

Position

Player

Previous Team

Acquired

Current Status

3/2009

F

Stefan Dimitrov*

Concordia College

Free Agent

Chicago Fire reserve

3/2009

D

Tim Ward

Colorado Rapids

Free Agent

Chicago Fire starter

4/6/09

G

Andrew Dykstra *

Virginia Commenwealth

Free Agent

Chicago Fire starter

9/15/09

D

David Myrie

LD Alajuelense

Free Agent

No team; Philadelphia Union (2010)

 

 

Like Brandon Prideaux the year before the acquisition of Tim Ward proved to be a fruitful one.  Ward had an impressive start to the 2009 season and was one of the Fire's best defenders before getting hurt and missing most of the latter half of the year and the playoffs.   Stefan Dimitrov is still on the squad and Andrew Dykstra is now the starting goalkeeper.  Whether or not he was ready to replace Jon Busch is still debatable but it wold be hard to argue that Dykstra was not a good find as an undrafted free agent.

 

The Fire once again was expected to compete for a spot in the MLS Cup final.  Although they did not qualify for the playoffs until the final weekend of the season the team was still among the favorites to challenge for a spot in the final.  The Fire once again failed to reach the final by losing in agonizing fashion on penalty kicks at home to Real Salt Lake.  That loss may have had more to do with questionable tactics and even more questionable substitutions in overtime than any lack of effort from Klopas or the front office.  In 2009, like the year before, the team was once again in position to legitimately challenge for a championship. 

 

2010 MLS SuperDraft (1/14/2010)

Round

Overall

Player

Position

College

Current Status

1st

13th

Corben Bone

M

Wake Forest

Chicago Fire reserve

2nd

26th

Kwame Watson-Siriboe

D

U of Connecticut

Chicago Fire reserve

2nd

29th

Drew Yates

M

Maryland

Tampa Bay Rowdies FC

3rd

45th

Steven Kinney

D

Elon University

Chicago Fire reserve

4th

51st

Sean Johnson

G

U. Central Florida

Chicago Fire reserve

On the surface the 2010 Superdraft appears to be very productive.  The team has high hopes for attacking midfielder Corben Bone and defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe.  Bone missed a good deal of preseason training with an injury before finally getting into real game action this past Saturday.  Watson-Siriboe showed promise in his only game action this year against Colorado.  Steven Kinney is on the roster although he has also been injured for the majority of the season.  The real gem of this draft may be goalkeeper Sean Johnson.  The Central Florida rookie keeper is am imposing and quick footed athlete who may be seeing starting time before long.  It is way to early to make any serious judgement on the 2010 draft but the signs look promising.   

 

2010 Free Agent Acquisitions 2010

Date

Position

Player

Previous Team

Acquired

Current Status

1/2010

D

Kryzystof Krol

Jagiellonia Bialystok

Free Agent

Chicago Fire starter

1/21/10

M

Julio Martinez

Leon

Free Agent

Chicago Fire reserve

3/11/10

F

Collins John

Fulham

Free Agent

Chicago Fire starter

4/18/10

D

Deris Umanzor

CD Aguila

Free Agent

Chicago Fire reserve

 

The offseason acquisitions of Kryzystol Krol, Julio Martinez, and Collins John were positively received at the time the deals were announced.  Unnecessary red card and Toronto game aside, Krol has appeared to be a fairly sure footed player who can be a solid MLS defender.  Not much was known about Julio Martinez other than he played for Carlos De Los Cobos on the Salvadoran National Team.  Martinez has looked lost in limited time while De Los Cobos has stated that he and Salvadoran National teammate Deris Umanzor need to adjust to the physicality and pace of MLS. 

Free Transfers

The past ten months have seen some ups and downs with the departures of Chris Rolfe, Gonzalo Segares, and Cuauhtemo Blanco.  Bakary Soumare was also transfered to French Ligue 1 side Bolougne last season after a mid season skirmish with Hamlett at half time of a match in Houston. 

The desire and opportunity for players to try European football is something that MLS clubs approach differently.  New England has stifled possible moves for Taylor Twellman and Shalrie Joseph while other teams have allowed players to pursue those moves.  MLS clubs shouldn't stand in the way of a player advancing his career if a deal is beneficial to both parties.  Soumare appeared intent on departing at some point since he was aware of the interest from teams in Ligue 1. 

Regardless of the incident with Hamlett, the 2008 MLS Best 11 defender would likely have departed at the end of the season anyway.  Klopas had difficult decisions to make with Rolfe and Segares.  Both players had expiring contracts but they were important enough to the team that a mid season transfer would have been detrimental to the playoff effort.  Allowing both players to leave without compensation is a mistake in hindsight but it was also evident that Segares and Rolfe had aspirations of playing overseas.  Segares in particular seemed to realize that his opportunity to cash in was closing. Segares' signing with Apollon doesn't seem like much of a step up from MLS, but the defender is banking on a larger European team taking notice while playing in Cyprus. 

Rolfe's case is slightly different.  Rolfe also had opportunities to play overseas since he had some exposure with the USMNT and had performed fairly well with the Fire.  Rolfe had grown increasingly aggravated with the league's salary rules and negotiations.  He seemed to blame the league more than the organization for the lack of progress towards a new deal.  The loss of Rolfe is even more frustrating since the less productive Justin Mapp was signed to a new $220,000.00 per season contract during the year.  Soumare and Seagres were inevitable departures but Rolfe's loss could have been avoided if actions were taken sooner.

Given that fans are already testy over the losses of popular players like Segares and Rolfe it is even more important that the Fire address Wilman Conde's contract negotiations in a satisfactory manner.  Losing arguably the best defender in MLS with no compensation would be a fumble to say the least. 

 

2010 and Beyond

Carlos De Los Cobos was hired as Hamlett's replacement on January 8, 2010.  In De Los Cobos the Fire found a coach with an international pedigree and experience in Mexico's Primera Division.  De Los Cobos is well respected and seems more open to new ideas than his predecessor. 

The newly found enthusiasm and focus on the Fire Academy is also a refreshing and positive move in the right direction.  It will be several years before one can truly judge or evaluate how productive the Fire Academy has been in helping the first team. 

After seven games in 2010 it is evident that there is still work to be done before this year's version of the Fire can be considered a finished product.  De Los Cobos is still feeling out his roster and making adjustments on the fly.  Some moves have worked (like switching to a 4-5-1) and others have not (witness Toronto) but to be fair the team is still lacking a true central attacking midfielder.  The true tale of 2010 will be told by the additions that are made in July. 

 

Klopas has performed admirably in his tenure as Technical Director.  The key point being that the team is in a better position to succeed today than it was in January of 2008 when he took the reins of the football side of the organization.   

 

 

 

Key Notes:

(a): Acquired from New York Red Bulls for head coach Juan Carlos Osorio

(b): Acquired from Columbus Crew for Fire 2010 4th Round pick (61st). Crew selected Othaniel Yanez midfielder from Louisville

* c: Acquired from Toronto FC for Fire forward Chad Barrett, Fire 2009 1st Round pick (13th) and future considerations. Toronto FC selected Stefan Frei, goalkeeper from University of California.

*: Undrafted Free Agent

Comments

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  • Nicely done, a real analysis. Resigning Conde,at DP money if necessary, and a new DP will tell us much about Hauptman's ambition and whether he will spend to keep the Fire competitive with the top teams. I have my doubts.

  • thats alot to take in this early in the morning

  • Based on the tone of this article it looks like you drank some "Klopas Kool-aid". I think you give Klopas a lot of credit for his role in recruiting players, particularly the 2008 draft as you state he was officially hired a day before the actual draft. It seems as though a lot of the articles on Fire Confidential undermine the last two successful seasons of the Fire. I am still waiting for the "attacking style football" that was so HIGHLY discussed in the pre-season.

  • In reply to Fire10:

    The "official" announcement was made the day before but Klopas was obviously involved before then. Are you saying that John Guppy was more responsible for the 2008 draft?

    2010 is still a work in progress. It's much too early to condemn or praise the team or the "attacking" style of play since all of the pieces are not in place yet.

    Just curious...which articles undermine the last two seasons?

  • In reply to Fire10:

    every manager/technical director in the history of the world has claimed a new "attacking style football" when first hired.

  • If the Fire can't make a deal with Conde, do they try and sell him to make money off of him? Klopas has done everything that we as fans have asked of him (other than Busch). Not very often do you see teams with their own draft picks starting for them. Let's not forget Steven King was our 2008 version of Lowry this year. He was better than serviceable for us and with his low salary was the reason Seattle took him in the expansion draft. Klopas has created the most talented and deepest roster in MLS. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for us and we are an attacking midfielder away from being deep into the playoffs. If Klopas can sign Conde, after the way he acted 2 years ago, he would make up for the Busch debacle in my eyes. I would rather have Conde than Busch everyday.

  • My definition of that position (the one that the Fire currently lacks) is a creative playmaker who can play in the middle of the pitch and distribute the ball to forwards and wing players. He should also be a quality finisher when the situation arises.

    The position is what some guys call a true number "10" player.

    If you watched the Houston-RSL match last night, Javier Morales fills that role for RSL. Peter Nowak was a good example. Blanco also filled that role for Club America in his prime.

  • Hey Fire 10. If you think you can do a better job with this blog , then try ! Klopas kool aid my rear ! Everything stated was fact. I think you are a Hamlett guy , the last 2 seasons resuleted in no trophies and alot of blown leads. Nobody is undermining the last 2 seasons , but what did we win???

  • In reply to FireStingDoug:

    Wow. I thought the comment section was for sharing opinions on articles and furthering discussion; it is also not about being a Hamlett guy or otherwise. I was simply sharing my opinion that the Klopas article was skewed; it is not one person in the organization making these decisions good or bad. We were also told at the luncheon that this was NOT a rebuilding season! I guess all we can do is cross our fingers and hope for some wins.

  • In reply to Fire10:

    Fire10,
    You're correct the comments section is exactly what you described. I welcome all comments pro/con, positive or negative. I assumed there would be some comments about being too heavily pro-Klopas. That's why I tried to present as much factual information as possible.
    Organizations are not run by one single individual and no one guy makes all the decisions. But when it comes to personnel, one guy is going to take the fall if the teams fails and most of the credit if they win. That guy is usually the guy at the top or the technical director.
    A rebuilding season would entail a team going with youth for the entire year in hopes that the team develops for the future with little consideration for the current season. I don't think we have that here. There is some rebuilding because of the nature of the league but I don't believe the entire year has been written off as a growing year. The tell tale signs will come in July when the transfer window opens. The team should be good enough to stay around the .500 mark until then.

  • In reply to Fire10:

    Yes indeed, this board is for all comments Fire10 , but the thing about him drinking Klopas kool aid is not a comment , it is a shot. Besides , the term kool aid was created by Mike North and it has gone out of style with him.

  • In reply to Fire10:

    The Klopas article was not skewed in any way. I just have seen too many times when people start saying things like " Kool aid " and all them other wonderful things in forums like this , the forum turns into a name calling free for all arguing blog and there is too much good information h ere for that to have happen here.
    If you think the article was skewed, tell us why and your opinion will be respected.

  • In reply to FireStingDoug:

    I agree with those that think this article was well documented and researched. I also agree with Fire10 in that it was skewed to put a more positive spin on Klopas. Does Klopas have no accounatability for not capturing any trophies as a technial director?

    FireSting - no need to be so sensative. Sure the facts are absolute but there is also quite of subjectivity in this article, as in all blogs. Because it comes from only 1 person who generally takes a side, it is going to be skewed similar to newspapers and news reports.

    And because this is just a blog and nothing more; aside from the facts you shouldn't read too much into the subjectivity unless GR has an inside track that makes his word golden.

  • In reply to ChristohperWallace:

    FF,
    Trophies are going to be the bottom line determining factor when all is said and done...no doubt. I don't have any more of an inside track than anyone else covering the team for the various outlets, but I think you'll find different takes and info here in comparison to the other outlets.

  • In reply to Fire10:

    He asked which articles you think in the confidential are undermining , let him know.

  • In reply to FireStingDoug:

    Ultimately that is what matters. The bottom line is hardware....whether it be MLS Cup, US Open Cup, or even SuperLiga.

  • In reply to cesba:

    Or even the Brimstone Cup.

    Bring on F*C* Dallas. This is the year we bring that dang thing back!

  • In reply to cesba:

    In the 3 years that Klopas has been a technical director, he has done a good job in drafting and signing FA players. Not every Klopas transactions will all turn into gold mine, players have come and gone. Since Mapp had that huge contract, he has not lived up to his potential. Remember, Justin Mapp was named in the MLS Best XI 4 years ago. Since, he has been either injured, benched or his skills had regressed annually. The Jon Busch move was kind of a head scratcher; I expected Dykstra to be the starter at some point next year. Other than the Mapp extension, I questioned the contract extension on Logan Pause and bringing Lider Marmol and David Myrie without giving them an opportunity. I am surprised that the Fire did not go after Dave Van Den Bergh; he would had been a good mentor for Corben Bone, Baggio Husidic and Peter Lowry. As far as his drafts go, he has been solid other than his 3rd and 4th round picks had little to no impact of the team. The 2010 Draft seems like the best draft under his tenure with Bone started to get his feet wet, Siriboe showing signs of a young Bakary Soumare, Yates playing in the USL, Kinney on the roster and Sean John looks like he could get some playing time before it said and done. Getting Conde resigned is the main focal point to this team and bringing back Blanco for a short term solution is an option I would prefer. Krol was a good acquistion; he is more like a younger and taller version of Segares. 2010 and beyond...to be continue.

  • In reply to longoria3:

    Why would you question the Logan Pause extension? And not many teams have nearly the amount of drafted talent still on their rosters as we do.

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    I agree with you with the talented that Klopas drafted but their are some some free agent acquisitions and contract extensions I am not too keen about; Logan Pause is one of them. Logan Pause is just a guy on the roster but he has little impact to the team. It is not a knock on Pause as a person. He is great guy and great in the locker room but he is not a good soccer player. There are others players in the depth chart I would prefer than Pause. The salary between Pause and Mapp I would put that in use to resign Chris Rolfe.

  • Great article and analysis I agree with you on most everything! Yeah the Busch debacle is very mysterious! Showing Busch the door the way the Fire did is simply unacceptable! Why give the keys to the organization to a unknown like Dykstra without him earning it by fighting Busch for game play 1st like in this season would be far more acceptable. I'd like to see Sean battle Dykstra who still looks very unsure of himself. Sure he has been thrown into the shark tank and can either sink or swim.
    The decision to give Mapp $200k+ is beyond me while letting Rolfe walk. Mapp hardly made the starting lineup, if even the being a sub yet he gets the big deal while others hardly get paid minimum and were very serviable.
    If any knocks on Klopas who I think has done a decent job a A- is what I'd give him, negatives are:
    1) Giving Mapp the big deal for lack of production, at some point potential is leaving and disappointment is there for Mapp, he should be a mainstay on the National team by now as well as a mainstay on his team. He has been a little better this year so far, but far from what we thought he's be when we traded (put it all out there or die trying Dema)!
    2) Booting Busch in the butt...very disrespectful for a true core guy (Prob the best blue collar roll up your sleeves and let's get dirty type guy in the MLS who is undersized but his heart makes him one of the best of MLS keepers in history)...now he needs to battle another best in Canon for playing time in SJ...not fair.
    3) Letting Rolfe walk and reference to #1, giving the big $ to Mapp....I think all us Fire fans can't figure this one out. WHY?????
    4) Need to handle the Conde situation fast and give the guy $ close to what we would a DP. We don't have a DP, but the guy is one of the best central defenders in the league and is getting international attention and we need to keep him in a Fire uniform especially with CJ retiring!
    5) Getting a true playmaker (Not Blanko his ship has sailed away...too slow...not uptempo...even us Fire fans hate to see him sit on his butt and make the argument for cards to the opposition...our guys are fit they don't need all these breaks in action...we are supposed to be a uptemp...quick pass team a departure of the over the top crap that never worked. Pappa, Mapp, Nyarko are very dangerous and I like the 4-2-3-1 style (John starter/McB off bench) but we need a play maker. How about Guarvara? I know the guy is a hot head, but didn't Toronto let the guy go, he's fun to watch. We should have nabbed Skelotto from the Crew last year and showed him the big $s!!!!
    GO FIRE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • In reply to smiley:

    Guevara signed with Motagua in Honduras during the off season. There was no way he was going to mesh with Preki in Toronto seeing that Preki unceremoniously booted him at Chivas USA.

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