Before The Fire Get Too "Wacky".....

A recent article by's Steve Davis got me thinking about the Fire's current coaching situation and the dismissal of the previous coach.  Some members of the national media have taken the opportunity to point out that Denis Hamlett was relieved of his duties after two consecutive trips to the Eastern Conference final and have painted his dismissal as some egregious miscarriage of justice.  While it's easy enough to hail the two Conference Final appearances as some sort of major accomplishment when compared to the current state of the team, the fact that the Fire actually won nothing during Hamlett's tenure with arguably one of the more talented rosters in MLS is curiously glossed over.  That "nothing" includes two unceremonious dismissals from US Open Cup play, a SuperLiga Final loss on penalty kicks, and the aforementioned two Eastern Conference Final losses.  The 2009 Final saw Jason Kreis adjust his substitutions in anticipation of penalty kicks while Hamlett ended the season with Logan Pause and Brandon Prideaux at the penalty spot.  Also conveniently forgotten is the fact that the Fire didn't clinch qualification for postseason play until the final match of the 2009 season despite a strong roster that was expected to contend for the Supporter's Shield. 


The convenient memory loss also seems to include the claim that the roster going into 2010 was just as talented as the 2009 roster.  This simply wasn't the case.  Cuautehmoc Blanco and Chris Rolfe, the team's second and third leading scorers after Brian McBride in 2009, departed and no suitable replacements were made until the transfer window opened in mid July.  The new additions of Collins John and Julio Martinez failed to produce and even the most optimistic of outlooks couldn't have expected Martinez and John to equal the production of Blanco and Rolfe.  Couple that with the fact that 2009's back line included the in form Wilman Conde and Gonzalo Segares (not to mention Bakary Soumare before getting into an altercation with Hamlett) and it's pretty clear that 2010's squad was not as talented as the previous year's team going into this season. 

Now I'm not suggesting that Carlos De Los Cobos has done a good job in 2010.  The record speaks for itself, but it should be understood that this year's Fire team was not the same one that Hamlett piloted.  The fact that De Los Cobos has struggled in his first year has nothing to do with the job Hamlett did before him.  The two are mutually exclusive and an apples to apples comparison can't easily be made.  Neither one should be particularly proud of amassing ZERO hardware over the last three seasons. 


As fans, Fire supporters should expect and demand the very best from the club.  That is a given that I'm sure ownership realizes and supports.  By the same token fans should also understand that changing coaches after one unsuccessful season isn't particularly a recipe for success.  Before a change in the head coaching position is made one has to wonder whether a different coach would have made a dramatic difference in altering the Fire's place in the MLS table this season.  My answer is probably not, and here's why:


  • Losses from the end of 2009 to the start 2010 include Blanco, Rolfe, Brandon Prideaux, and Segares.  That would be your offensive linchpin, your most talented finisher, and both outside backs gone.  The loss of Blanco cannot be understated no matter how slow or whiney you may think he was.  Simply put, the guy produced, battled and made an impact even though he was starting to show his age. 
  • New acquisitions to start 2010 included Martinez, John, Krzyzstof Krol, and Deris Umanzor.  Compare this foursome to the departed foursome and try to explain how it's better or even just as good. 
  • The introduction of De Los Cobos brought about a philosophical change in style of play and training.  The Fire entered the season promising an "attractive and attacking style" which never quite materialized.  Without a central playmaker it's difficult to see the type of one and two touch system that most envisioned when analyzing that promise particularly when both outside midfielders (Marco Pappa and Patrick Nyarko) perform best with the ball at their feet.  Training sessions this season were also longer and more demanding which may or no may not have contributed to the rash of quad and hamstring injuries.  The point is - the daily regimen and style of the team underwent a dramatic change in one offseason without adding true impact players until mid July.  Changes in philosophy and style don't provide positive results overnight.  For instance, take into account the record of some of MLS' top managers in 2010 over their first 30 games with their current teams:
  • Bruce Arena 9-8-13 with Los Angeles Galaxy from 2008 to 2009
  • Jason Kreis 7-15-8 with Real Salt Lake from 2007 to 2008
  • Schellas Hyndman 6-12-12 with FC Dallas from 2008 to 2009
  • Frank Yallop 8-13-9 with San Jose as an expansion team in 2008
  • Gary Smith 12-10-8 with Colorado Rapids from 2008 to 2009
  • It wouldn't hurt to notice that all five of the names listed above are managing playoff teams in 2010.  It's should also be noted that six teams changed head coaches going into the 2010 season.  Five of those six teams (Chicago, Chivas USA, Toronto, DC United, and Kansas City) failed to qualify for postseason.  Only New York's Hans Backe was able to break the trend.  The book is not closed on Backe yet, despite an impressive regular season and flashy new additions it remains to be seen if his team will gel sufficiently for the MLS playoffs.  Let's see if he starts Mehdi Ballouchy over Juan Pablo Angel come Game 1 of the post season. 
  • Important players underperformed or were unavailable due to injury.  Wilman Conde quite simply had a disastrous season after being named as an MLS Best XI defender.  If his contract situation is resolved the team should be hopeful that he can return to previous form.  John Thorrington has essentially missed the entire season after participating in 19 games last year and signing a new contract.  His absence has also been key to the team's struggles in central midfield. 
  • Brian McBride was not the player he had been before undergoing shoulder surgery last season.  McBride led the team with seven goals in 2009 despite missing time with the injury. 
  • The acquisition of Nery Castillo as a designated player has been a bust so far.  Everyone acknowledged that this was a gamble at the time of the signing but I felt it was a gamble worth taking.  It just hasn't worked out.  Whether or not Castillo can use the offseason to regain the form of three seasons ago remains to be seen. 
  • Freddie Ljungberg has been moderately successful and has played admirably at times but when taking into account the impact of other designated player acquisitions throughout the league this signing can't be rated much higher than "just okay".
  • Changes and additions to the roster need to be made in the offseason regardless of who is behind the bench. 

Valid criticisms of De Los Cobos include his inability to settle on a consistent line up and formation while struggling to mesh the current players at his disposal adequately.  The difficulty of training sessions should also come into question considering the sheer amount of injuries suffered this season; however this may prove beneficial next year if the current players who return next season know what is expected of them and prepare themselves during the offseason to meet those demands in 2011.  De Los Cobos' fitness coach, Alvaro Briones will have much to answer for if injuries continue into next year. 


De Los Cobos should also be held responsible for the failed acquisitions of Julio Martinez and Deris Umanzor, two of his players from the El Salvador National Team.  These dubious signings could be attributed to his lack of familiarity with MLS.  Neither of the two seemed to be a fit for MLS' style of play but the hiring of Mike Jeffries as Player Personnel Director should aid in assessing the talents of possible new acquisitions going forward.  Another level of scouting should eliminate further mistakes like these.


Frustration levels are high throughout Fire nation but a knee jerk reaction based on simply wanting to see some blood after missing the playoffs for only the second time in franchise history would be somewhat shortsighted.  Andrew Hauptman and Frank Klopas thought they had the right guy when hiring De Los Cobos in January and given the circumstances he should probably be allowed to begin the second season of his two-year deal.  After all, changing coaches every season would make the Fire the new version of the New York Metro Bulls and no self respecting Fire supporter wants that.    




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  • We see come January and perseason. Fire should be close to winning all preseason matches if not then there will be problems come March

  • Conde on his way to Israel to trial with Maccabi Haifa FC next week.....

  • Plenty of blame to go around this season.

  • Guillermo I like your comments and effort you have shown
    since taking over for Sam. I really appreciate all the time
    you have spent and research done to write all the interesting
    and factual articles on the Fire and the players and for this
    I thank you. I want the Chicago Fire to succeed and the Fan base
    to grow so that they need to increase seating at Toyota Park because
    of having regular sell outs. All this is possible with a winning team that plays exciting entertaining Soccer.
    "Please accept the fact that this will never happen with Carlos de los Cobas as coach and some of the current players."
    We need to make changes and it has to happen with a new coach who
    knows how to selct players and get them to produce on the field.

    "I want 2011 to be a better year than 2010 so a new coach and some
    young tallented player acqusitions is a Must Happen.

  • In reply to TigerJMS:

    An argument can certainly be made to launch DLC too but it should be clear that firing Hamlett wasn't necessarily the wrong move.

  • In reply to cesba:

    The Fire don't want to be like the newer version of the Red Bulls, DC United and YES!!!! Toronto FC in terms of coaching changes. This Alvaro Briones should be questioned for the players injuries. I am not a sold on this so called fitness guru.

  • In reply to TigerJMS:

    GR -- Outstanding, cool-headed analysis of the Fire situation. Unfortunately, logic and facts will not win over everybody. My hope is that Frank K and DLC are open minded enough to carefully consider your quite reasonable criticisms. However I still think that Conde will never recover and is a hopeless head-case and both of the DP's (Castillo and Ljundberg) better bring their best game to preseason or book tickets for home.

  • In reply to TigerJMS:

    If Hamlett's team was so talented, and I agree it was, how do we explain the firing of Dave Saracan who formed that talented squad? Or the constant Saracan haters on big Soccer? Poor judgement from the front office?

  • In reply to Celt:

    Sarachan won with Bob Bradley's guys and once he is started to form his own guys, it started to go downhill.

  • In reply to longoria3:

    So Hamlett's team was Saracan's team was really Bradley 's Team? And Bradley's team was responsible for all the seasons that the Fire was a very competitive team. isn't there a statue of limitations in there somewhere? Bradley has been gone a long time and only now it catches up to us? That's a long time to be successful without a good coach.

  • In reply to Celt:

    that's a Statute of limitations, not statue as in a bronze of Calen Carr.

  • In reply to Celt:

    celt, also not a statue in a bronze of Will Johnson either while Sarachan refuses to play him while wearing a Fire uniform before his MLS career took off in Real Salt Lake.

  • In reply to longoria3:

    longoria3, Agree on Johnson who the fire lowballed, I think Macdonald's money lowballed, before he went to Holland. The Fire then gave him away for some low pick. Dumb beyond belief. I ve always liked his game and potential. Talking of RSL, they brought in a 20 yr old Brasilian last night, 2 goals, and I was struck that the Fire never get these talents from South America and this must be down to the front office. Most teams in MLS have better and younger talent as subs than most of our starters. Time to clean house. I'm sick of watching mediocre talent without a good youngster in sight.

  • In reply to Celt:

    Yes, I saw that yesterday vs. Cruz Azul. The player you are thinking of is Paulo Araujo on a loan from Miami FC (USSF D2). By the way, the coach for Miami FC is our old buddy Daryl Shore. Araujo is only 21 years old and has potential. I agree with you in terms of cleaning house but not totally. I would get rid of players like Banner, Krol, Robinson, Thorrington, John, Conde, Brown, Ljungberg, Carr, Umanzor, Castillo and Pause; that is the start. That is why they hired Jeffries as a pro personnel guy. I like the core coming out of the 2011 Superdraft full of forwards/midfielders. 6 to 7 players from Akron University (AKA MLS University) will be projected to go in the first round. I think the Fire have alot of money under the cap along with 5 or 6 picks. Other than the Greek and Ukraine League, they do need to explore other areas in the country like South America and etc. Last Brazilian that the Fire had was Thiago. Brings back brief memories.

  • In reply to longoria3:

    Bruno Menezes was Brazilian. He was also bad.

  • In reply to Celt:

    Remember that the pre-Blanco Sarachan squad was awful in 2007.

  • In reply to Celt:

    I think Frank let the team down as much as DLC at the beginning of the year by not replacing the people who left better. Additionally, I think we took to many gambles on headcase/problem childs. 1 is ok, but Nery, Freddie, and John. Not to mention the headcase we had in Conde was to much. Not to excuse the poor job that DLC did. At some point you have to realize they aren't going to play 1 or touch and adjust your coaching and formations.

  • In reply to Celt:

    excellent article guillermo

    i have to say that analysis of the previous coaching changes & their 1st year records really showed me the light.

    i still believe if the fire retain CDLC tho, they need some different players that are able to play the style necessary - too many midfielders in particular are too slow in making passing decisions, so timid in getting forward without the ball, and too aggressive in taking on too many defenders with the ball. if they cannot or will not fit into the system then they need to go or the coach needs to go

    i'd also like to see fullbacks with some speed that can make overlapping runs on the attack. kinney seems to have the mentality but not the speed

    can we get someone that can cross the ball!?!?! other the ljungberg, i dont think any fire player could put up a decent cross more than once in a 10 game span. wingers with speed on the flanks are much more dangerous if they can deliver a decent cross

  • In reply to Celt:

    Kries ran curckes around Hamlett in the conference championship game last year and yest he started tinkinering with his lineup during the game getting ready for PKs and I think Halett took Rolfe out.
    The way Hamlett came out for that game was crazy against RSL last year , he came out ready to sit on a 0-0 tie and if he was going to play for that scoreless tie he did not even set his shooutout rotation right. When a game had to be won by a thinking man coach in a close game , Hamlett was not the man for that. Think of all of the wins he played into ties last year, he also did not have the brains to put together set pieces.
    Guys like Ives are crazy if they think Hamlett was good , why is he not in MLS now ??????

  • In reply to Celt:

    Sorry for the typo , Kries ran CIRCLES mentally around Hamlett.

  • In reply to Celt:

    First off, I understand everyone is entitled to their own opinions on coaches, tactics, players, metrics of success, etc. With that being said, Guillermo you have obviously been drinking the Klopas/DLC fruit punch. Although the data may be accurate in that no titles were won under Hamlett, but what are you trying to prove other than deflect the horrendous performance by the coaching staff, front office, and players this year? For as dismal as the Fire season has been and for as high of hopes everyone had this past offseason, it is complete crap that you are able to so swiftly switch your tone and point the blame at the past and not write anything questioning the recent decisions made to get the team to this low point. Why don't you go out on a whim and grow a set and say DLC and Klopas are not the right people for these positions? DLC has never been a successful coach and you are "Wacky" if you thought that this was going to be his year to shine. I think since day one I have been firm in my stance saying Klopas has no credible management experience either. The Storm was a flop and that about sums up his managerial/coaching resume.

    Denis was let go almost a year ago. Right, wrong or indifferent it is in the past and has nothing to do with the Fire's current situation. But since you bring it if every coach was only given 2 years to win a title, how would a team ever progress? Sure his team's didn't win any titles but I would rather take a shoot-out loss in the Conference Finals or SuperLiga over having to watch this crap all season and not even be close to making the playoffs at all - but to each their own I suppose.

    As for Ives article, I believe he was merely trying to point out that given Hamlett's winning record as a head coach, was it worth taking a chance on an unproven international coach? But it appears you have chosen to stray the opposite way for the apparent personal dispise you have for Hamlett, which to me seems a little unprofessional to hold such a grudge almost a year later towards someone who is not even in the picture anymore. But again, to each their own.

  • In reply to FrankFlopas:

    Ah...the pot calls the kettle black when it comes to personal dislikes.

    For the record I have no personal dislike of Hamlett. My only issue with him is that I think he did a less than mediocre job with the most talented team in the league in 2008 and 2009. I would have expected nothing less than an MLS Cup Final in either of those two seasons with that roster. That is the reason he is no longer standing on the sidelines at Toyota Park.

    The De Los Cobos hiring was indeed a gamble given the history of success for foreign coaches in MLS. The point I'm trying to make -and that you're ignoring -is that De Los Cobos is not coaching the same team that Hamlett had. Steve Davis' article (as well as Ives' a few weeks ago) failed to mention that. It not an excuse or a deflection. Just the facts.

    I'm not sure what fruit punch you're referring to because the article also pointed out what I felt were De Los Cobos' shortcomings during the season. If you think I haven't written anything about horrendous performances this year you should probably go back and read my posts and comments over the last few months.

    As for Klopas, the additions of Ljungberg and Castillo were gambles that haven't paid off - but at the time of their signings most observers, fans, and commentors here were pretty happy with the acquisitions. It's very easy to wait to see how they panned out to start complaining and calling for heads after the fact. But then each their own.

  • In reply to cesba:

    To be fair, fans are fans.. they aren't technical directors. It doesn't matter what they think. Fans didn't fawn over Lindpere for NY but he has been a stud. Up until a year ago no one would have wanted Buddle. The fans where excited isn't a valid response in my opinion.

  • In reply to lijien:

    Actually, I think it does matter what the fans think. That's what makes sites like this one and countless others interesting. It's not just a bunch of guys rambling about nonsense....I think most of the guys that comment here are pretty knowledgeable.
    You don't have to be a technical director to have a valid opinion.

  • In reply to cesba:

    An opinion is an opinion, but fans have less access to the players and team. Fans in general have less knowledge of player evaluations as well. For example NFL fans in phili didn't want McNabb, or fans in Houston didn't want Williams. Sounder fans loved Ljunberg then this year hated him. I am just saying having fan approval doesn't make it a good or valid move.

  • In reply to lijien:

    There's always going to be some discussion and differing view points regardless of whose opinion it is.

    In the same fashion that fans can disagree about a player, you're going to have different techincal directors with opposing views on certain players.

  • In reply to cesba:

    First off, I never once stated I was a fan of Klopas or the Fire front office so I don't think your statement of "calling the kettle black pertains here."

    Secondly, I would also like to raise questions to some of your points raised about last years team being so much better than this years. You can argue til you are blue in the face that you favor one over the other but the fact of the matter is they are two different teams. Even the players that were on the roster both years are different players if for nothing else they are a year older.

    But, when you mentioned that last year's team was much more stacked that this years, did injuries not play a major part of the line up changes?

    If you could help me out as I am sure you have this information readily available I am curious how long:
    -Gonzalo was out with injuries?
    -Ward was out with injuries?
    -McBride missed due to his mid-season surgery and strained contract negotiations?
    -How many weeks/months did it take Blanco to get back into shape?
    How many games was Prideux out with injury?
    -How many games did Soumare cost the Fire for not wanting to be in the MLS any longer which may stem to the supposed altercation that so many reported on that took place in the locker room.

    If you are going to report on something, it would be appropriate to get the facts straight and I believe that all those that have written what transpired in the locker room between Soumare and Hamlett were not in fact in the locker room at that time, so all the stories and theories are basically rumors to help push a particular agenda. In this case, you are trying to make Hamlett look like a worse coach than he was but to be fair, you were not in the locker room and didn't you also use to have the screen name Denis Hamlett and bach him repeatedly? So much for being neutral...

    No reason to respond as I am sure you will have to run any response by Frank and the Fire front office and by the time you are able to draft something up, it will no longer be relavent.

    With that being said, in order to have a valid opinion as you stated in a post below, you also need to include accurate facts, but this is your site and you are free to do as you wish.

    Have a nice off season.

  • In reply to FrankFlopas:

    You're a funny guy.

    Not only do you not understand the "kettle black" reference, apparently have troubling with reading comprehension, and facts in general but you're always entertaining I'll give you that.

    Just to set the record straight.....
    Last year's team and this year's are indeed two different teams, that was the point of my article.
    -Segares missed 18 games last year
    -Ward missed 11 games last year
    -McBride missed 8 games last year
    -Prideauex missed 11 games last year (not all due to injury)
    -As for the answers to the Blanco and Soumare questions, they're subjective but I'm sure any answer opposite of your opinion is surely incorrect.

    I was not in the locker room to personally witness the Soumare/Hamlett incident so I have not reported on it (you apparently think that mentioning the incident constitutes a report of some sort). I can only rely on the credible reports that I have heard and read regarding the incident. I also have never used the screen name "Denis Hamlett" to "bach" him.

    You should also be very aware that nothing I write here is screened, approved, or even previewed by the front office or anyone else involved with the team.

    Hopefully you will read this and find it "relavent" and realize that just because something does not match your opinion it doesn't mean that it must be written for some reason other than to suit your own agenda.

    I'll enjoy my offseason nicely, thanks. Keep posting....your comments are usually good for a laugh or two.

  • In reply to TigerJMS:

    Don't forget to add Wizards coach Peter Vermes in that picture. He took over a bad Wizards team last year with the dismal of Curt Onalfo. Since he took over, Vermes was 3-7-2 in 2009 and 10-13-6 record with solid foundation of Bunbury, Kamara, Jewsbury, Harrington, Smith and Conrad plus the addition of Neilson. Hans Backe took over a Red Bulls team that had the same roster since day 1 which includes key draft picks of Tschani and Ream with the additions of Marquez, Henry and Ballouchy. It is not like De Los Cobos don't have players to build around. What the Fire need to do going to the offseason is to upgrade the forward position, center midfielder, holding midfielder and center back to work with players like Johnson, Watson-Siriboe, Segares, Kinney, Pappa, Nyarko and Ristic thrown with the unknowns like Bone and Pineda. Peter Nowak didn't take the Union to the playoffs with an expansion team unlike Sigi Schmid with Seattle in 2009.

  • Let's not forget the (to my wife, unforgivable sin of the) dismissal of Jon Busch. What an amazingly bad decision. What an amazingly bad way to start the season. I think it shattered the morale of a lot of the old timers on the team. After a full season of play, I don't think de los Cobos ever got their confidence back. Plus, the errors they made in June were the same errors they were making in September. That's not progress. I hear what you're saying, but I'm still not convinced that he's got the answers.

  • In reply to Fuegofan:

    Valid points. He may not have the answers and if he decides that he wants to move back to El Salvador I don't think the Fire would stand his way either.

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