Frank Klopas is set to depart for a European scouting mission this weekend and I had a chance to catch up with him to discuss a wide range of Fire related topics. Here's a Q&A with the Fire's head coach that sheds a little bit of light on what should be another interesting offseason.
Are you looking at specific players on this trip? Are some of the players you looked at last year still on the radar?
"Some players you track depending on their contract situation. When they finish it's a little different because most teams try to resign them six months before their deals are up. We update the list all the time but on this trip there are specific positions and players that I'm going to look at".
Are you continuing to look at South American based players or just focusing on Europe this year?
"We've built very sound relationships in South America with teams and with people that we work with and know the league really well. Those are trips (South America) that potentially we'll still go to depending on the players that we need to look at after we've done our job scouting. In Europe we do have a lot better relationships with agents that we've built that know the league and know the financial demands of the league and the type of players that you need to be successful here. It's about working relationships like the one we have with Atletico Madrid where we're connected to teams all over the world. We might have some opportunities with them and access to players they can provide".
Is the Atletico relationship something that you think will benefit the Fire this season?
"I'm going to spend time (at partner Atletico Madrid) looking at some players. Whether it's in this window or the next one or down the line I think there will be opportunities where we will bring in players and have a working relationship with them".
"There is a summit planned with Atletico on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th and I'll spend some time in Spain with the first team and their reserve team and academy program looking at player opportunities for sure".
What areas specifically are you looking to improve?
"We feel we have a good base to build on from last year and more than anything it's about continuity but we are looking to improve. If we can improve the front line and the forwards and maybe the midfield I think those are the areas that we are going to be focusing on".
There have been several star European veterans that have expressed an interest in MLS over the last few weeks. Will you look at adding players like Drogba, Anelka, Ballack, Seedorf, etc.?
"We're looking at all the options. The most important thing is that we're looking for players that are going to help us win, that is the key. More than anything Chicago is a great city and one that a lot of those players have been to while over in the States. Those players all know the league know and look forward to the opportunity to come here but at the end of the day it's about the players that come here and whether or not they still have the ability to bring a lot to the field and help us win. It's important we look at every opportunity for players that will help us win".
While looking at adding forwards and midfielders are there options within the league that you're interested in as well as players overseas?
"We're looking to bring in one or two forwards and possibly two midfielders. There could be opportunities for guys that are in the league either through the re-entry draft or through trade to get guys that have a good understanding of the league and could help you right away since they know the league and the transition is a lot smoother. There are guys that we're looking at outside of this country that we need to bring in but the key for us is to move fast because it's very important for me to have all these guys in for the start of preseason and have six or seven weeks with the new guys to get acclimated and adjust to their new teammates. The preseason is very important because that's where a lot of the work is done. Especially when you have two or three new players in, you have to have them in from the beginning to work on things like our philosophy and the way we want to play. We have to get that done in preseason, it's valuable time for a player to miss".
The team was successful in last year's re-entry draft with the addition of Cory Gibbs. Is that a focus again this year?
"It depends on who's available but we're definitely going to look at that. There will be opportunities there for sure. Once we see the full list we'll identify some of those players that we feel will fit in with our team here. We know about them on the field but more than anything we'll look at the character and the kind of people they are. That we have to find out about".
Since you're looking to add forwards does that mean Cristian Nazirit and Diego Chaves are on the outs?
"Nazarit is not in the plans for 2012 but with Diego we have a situation with an option and that's something we need to discuss with him and work through that because there's a buyout option that's pretty big. That's a situation that we need to discuss and work out. That one for sure we'll discuss".
Were you surprised not to lose anyone in the expansion draft this season?
"It's crazy. Last year we lost two players and a team like LA that's won two years in a row and they don't lose one. We knew once the names were released that there were a lot of players out there but everybody sees it differently and has their own opinions on the players available. I'm glad we didn't lose any players for sure".
Are you still involved with contract negotiations, extensions, and loan deals for players like Pardo, Grazzini, and Barouch now that you're no longer the Technical Director?
"We have a group of people that discuss that. My main focus right now when I'm travelling and scouting is looking at players and seeing how they fit in with the team. Those are some of the discussions that we review as a group here to make those decisions".
Do you plan on changing or adding to the coaching staff now that you're the permanent head coach?
"Everybody has different needs and I'm happy for the efforts the guys put in last year. At the end of the day we try to create a place where players want to come and play and people want to be a part of. I thank the guys for their effort but when decisions are made on certain guys then we'll review at that time. I'm evaluating everything right now and trying to make the best decision for the club and myself based on my needs going forward".