Chicago Reshuffles After Disappointing Season

The Chicago Fire have started building for a better season in 2014
by Kiran Balan   |   Friday, December 27, 2013

Ladder 97 – column on Chicago Fire & the Chicagoland area soccer scene.

Following a disappointing ending to the 2013 MLS season in which the Chicago Fire narrowly missed out on the final Eastern Conference playoff spot through goal differential, the team has moved swiftly this offseason to prepare for the 2014 campaign. 

A top-down restructuring has seen President of Operations Javier Leon and manager Frank Klopas leave the club. Two-time MLS Cup Champion and former Coach of the Year Frank Yallop has also been appointed as manager and director of soccer, a position in which he will have full access to transfer decisions and the type of players he wants to develop a successful squad.

This approach will prove to be successful, as Yallop will be able to analyze weaknesses within the squad and buy the right players whom he sees fits the bill.

Although former coach Klopas was a very popular figure at Toyota Park, it was necessary to move in a new direction seeing that the Chicago Fire have missed out on the MLS playoffs 3 out of the last 4 years.

The Fire also have overhauled Klopas’ coaching staff by letting go of assistant coaches Leo Percovich and Mike Matkovich, goalkeeping coach Aron Hyde, and scouting director Rafael Carmona.

In the process of rebuilding the coaching staff, former Chicago Fire defender CJ Brown rejoins the team as an assistant coach. Brown was a highly reliable defender for the Chicago Fire and could provide invaluable advice and know-how to a leaky Fire defense that gave up a massive 52 goals in the regular season.  

The Fire also announced that Brian Bliss, who was an interim coach at the Columbus Crew, would be taking over the role of technical director.  Bliss held the same position for the Crew, where he was responsible for bringing in the likes of Federico Higuaín to the team. His expertise will be huge for the club, which has struggled to integrate a strong designated player to the team since the days of the influential playmaker Cuauhtémoc Blanco.

In terms of player personnel, the Fire have completely reshuffled the pack during the early days of this off season. Right from the get go, they released backup goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi, who started 9 games and earned 1 shutout while playing the understudy to Sean Johnson – as well as Uruguayan national team player Arevalo Rios. Rios joined at the latter part of the season and started all 9 games at the end of the 2013 season.

The 2013 Re-Entry Draft has seen midfielders Daniel Paladini and Corbin Bone joining the Columbus Crew and Philadelphia Union, respectively.  Jamaican international Shaun Francis recently signed for the San Jose Earthquakes during Stage 2 of the Re-Entry Draft. The remaining players – Wells Thompson, Michael Videira, Joel Lindpere, Logan Pause and Maicon Santos – are all still working on negotiations with the Fire and have the possibility of returning for the 2014 season.

The club recently signed Jamaican defender Lovel Palmer from Real Salt Lake in exchange for allocation money. Palmer joins the Fire after 1 season playing for RSL, in which he played in 17 regular season matches and 3 playoff matches as they lost in the MLS Cup Final against Sporting Kansas City.  They have also resigned Chris Rolfe, after he opted out of the second round of the Re-Entry Draft.

 The reshuffling of technical staff and player personnel of the Chicago Fire will hopefully breathe new life into a team that has a deep passion to get back to the top. With the new changes the Fire will hope that they can reignite the passion that has carried the team for many years to success. It will definitely be an interesting few months at Toyota Park as the team prepares for a grueling 2014 MLS season.

Kiran BALAN

Nationality:
USA
College:
Illinois State University
Club Domestic:
Chicago Fire
Club Foreign:
Chelsea
Columnist for his hometown MLS team, Chicago Fire. When he’s not flying down the left wing for ISU FC or in a pick-up game, he can be seen watching the beautiful game. A die-hard Chelsea and USMNT fan, he is keen to growing his soccer knowledge.
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