Klopas tries to end winless run

After matching an ignominious club record with a nine-game winless streak, the Chicago Fire felt it was time for a change.

With a new coach at the helm, Chicago looks to snap its skid by defeating the visiting Seattle Sounders on Saturday night.

The Fire (1-4-6), whose 0-4-5 stretch in MLS play began with a 2-1 loss in Seattle on April 9, dismissed second-year coach Carlos de los Cobos on Monday in hopes of bringing a renewed optimism to the franchise.

Technical director Frank Klopas, who played on the Fire’s 1998 MLS championship team, takes over as interim coach.

"Frank’s wealth of knowledge and experience as a player, scout, technical director and coach provide an extraordinary background for him to manage the team successfully as we work towards a MLS Cup playoff spot," said Javier Leon, an executive representing owner Andrew Hauptman.

Chicago, which salvaged a 2-2 draw with San Jose last Saturday thanks to defender Cory Gibbs’ goal in the 80th minute, could have a hard time getting things going offensively during Klopas’ coaching debut.

Midfielder Marco Pappa, tied for the team lead with four goals, left the Fire on Sunday to join the Guatemalan national team for Gold Cup camp. He is expected to miss at least three games.

As Chicago looks to avoid surpassing the 2004 team’s nine-game winless slump, goalkeeper Sean Johnson believes that the coaching change will light a fire under the club.

"Everybody’s willing and committed to getting results now," Johnson said. "The reality is we’re (near the) bottom of the Eastern Conference and we’ve got to do a job to get out of this rut and I think it all starts with training and moving forward to the Seattle game."

Seattle (5-4-5), meanwhile, is coming off perhaps its most impressive effort of the year, ending Real Salt Lake’s 29-game home unbeaten streak against MLS opponents with a 2-1 victory last Saturday.

"We came into it knowing they had a streak going and we definitely wanted to end it," said midfielder Lamar Neagle, who scored his first goal of the season. "We want to be a team that ends other people’s streaks and starts our own."

Defender Patrick Ianni also recorded his first goal of the year while Kasey Keller continued his stellar play in goal, making a season-high-tying five saves.

"He’s a world class goalkeeper and played world class (Saturday)," coach Sigi Schmid said.

Keller, who ranks among the league leaders with a 0.93 goals-allowed average, made four saves against Chicago in April. His 41 saves this season lead the Western Conference.

The 41-year-old Keller played with Klopas on the US National Team but isn’t sure what to expect from him as a coach.

"We’re not too worried about those kinds of things," Keller told the Sounders’ official website. "We know that if we go out and perform the way we’re capable of performing, we give ourselves a chance in every game."