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
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’
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 (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
“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.”