The Fire continue post season training at Toyota Park with an eye towards 2012 and assessing the roster going forward. Interim Head Coach Frank Klopas, who will likely have the "interim" tag removed soon is using the time to continue developing and hopefully carrying over the success the team enjoyed in the final months of the season. "It's still an opportunity for us with a lot of young players to continue to play together and develop more of a chemistry. I think it's important, it's a long offseason," said Klopas following training on Tuesday. "It's good for some of the other guys to develop and play and its also an opportunity to bring some players in to look at and maybe strengthen our team."
After a full season Klopas feels the organization has a good handle on the roster but there are obviously areas that need improvement before some tough decisions are made. "We spent a year with the guys, you get to know the guys pretty well. We have a very good idea of all our players strength and weaknesses and the things they need to improve on and some of the things here in training is you continue to work on certain guys on functional stuff based on their positions to get better and sharpe," said Klopas.
With the expansion draft approaching each MLS club can only protect eleven players from selection by the Montreal Impact and the Fire are still working on completing that list. "We know the players on the team that we have and some of the decisions we have to make. These are the things that were talking about now. It's never easy with the expansion draft because its a big group and you might lose a guy but its difficult because you have to make some tough decisions," he warned.
Attempting to decipher and predict what Montreal may be in the market for is part of the challenge involved with compiling a protected list of only eleven players. "You never know some of the foerign spots or international players they might be bringing in so you're looking to see who they've signed or are about to sign to give you some idea. We're also looking at every roster from other teams just to figure out in our minds who they might protect or who might be available. Some players are going to be left unprotected thats just part of it".
Klopas also addressed his position as "Interim" coach again saying that the decision making group continues to discuss the subject. "We've talked about it. This is the time of the year to evaluate everything. Like I said, we'll make the right decision relatively soon because it's important to move forward".
"Andrew is the owner and of course he needs to know everything. He's hired people and put people in place to make those decisions. You just wanto make sure it's the right decision but its not going to be a situation where we start preseason and we don't have someone," he said without tipping his hand to a decision one way or the other.
Klopas also further explained his reasoning for taking over on the bench and how his desire to stay on the sideline has changed somewhat since taking over for Carlos De Los Cobos. " I said it was something that I didn't want to do because I didn't (want the permanent spot at the time). We brought a coach here and we were all behind him and we gave him 100% because we wanted more than anything for him to be successful when he was with the organization. I did everything I could and so did everyone else to make sure that we tried to be successful with Carlos. We're a team and we all worked together so I wanted more than anything for me to do my part, and I know everyone else did to give him every opporunity to be succesful. When that decision was made I felt that it was the right decision for someone that knew the players to step in. I really enjoyed being on the field and doing this part. Its something I didnt want but things happen and I've really enjoyed it. Now it's time to make a decision that's the right one for the organization going forward".
When asked whether he would prefer to return to his role as Technical Director or continue to run the team from the sidelines Klopas responded, "My preference would be anywhere that I would be involved with soccer".
Just a hunch here, but I'm anticipating an announcement declaring Klopas as the full time head coach of the Fire very soon. I'd be very surprised if the organization went in another direction at this point.
Orr Barouch in 2012
The young forward is currently with the Israeli U-21 National Team but Klopas also stressed that the "buy out" option with Tigres has not been completed yet. "This is the stuff we're talking about. With the option it just depends with Tigres and what the number is. He's a player that needs to work and develop but the important thing is that he has a good attitude". Klopas himself hasn't been in contact with the Mexican side in the last 48 hours but they have talked to them throughout the year. "It's another situation we have to sort out and see what the situation with the loan is because those are not always easy."
All In Podcast
Take a listen to Jeff Crandall's latest All-In Podcast featuring Sam Stejskal and yours truly rambling about all things Fire and MLS right here.