Klopas, Leon lose jobs with Chicago Fire
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The Two-Year Rule caught up to Frank Klopas.
Like so many Chicago Fire employees in prominent positions (players not included), the Fire's coach won't be around to celebrate his third anniversary in that job.
Team officials announced Wednesday that Klopas and Javier Leon, the team's president of soccer operations, have "stepped down," and a search for "new leadership" is under way.
The Fire will hold a news conference Thursday at 10:30 a.m. at the Renaissance Blackstone Hotel Chicago in which Hauptman will "make an announcement regarding the organization." Sources said the Fire will announce the hiring of former San Jose coach Frank Yallop.
"No one appreciates Frank's passion, integrity and competitive spirit more than me," Hauptman said in a Wednesday morning statement that also thanked Leon for his "steadfast commitment and dedication" to the Fire. "Frank has been a big part of this organization for many years as a player, Ring of Fire member, technical director and coach. I want to personally thank him for his efforts over this period. He is a wonderful friend and will always be a member of the Fire family."
Hauptman said the time has come for new leadership.
"Of course, making this team compete for championships on a consistent basis is our first priority," Hauptman said.
The Daily Herald, citing sources with the club, first reported the pending departures at 1 a.m. Wednesday.
The Fire is expected to look for a coach/GM, similar to the role Bruce Arena fills for the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Klopas' three immediate predecessors as coach -- Carlos de los Cobos, Denis Hamlett, Juan Carlos Osorio -- all moved on after two seasons or less in the top job, and even winning didn't help Hamlett. Hamlett took the club to two consecutive Eastern Conference championship games and still his contract wasn't renewed. The Fire has made the playoffs only once in four seasons since then.
Team presidents Dave Greeley and Julian Posada each lasted just about two years before heading for the door. Until now, the team had split the job between COO Atul Khosla and Leon.
Klopas made it six years with the club with which he finished his playing career, avoiding the Two-Year Rule when he served as technical director. Time wasn't on his side when he moved to the sideline, however, and he got caught in the Fire's revolving door like so any others.
Klopas took over as interim coach when de los Cobos was fired on Memorial Day 2011 after a miserable start. When he finished that season 7-2-1 over the final 10 matches and just missed the playoffs, owner Andrew Hauptman gave him the job on a permanent basis.
To the end, in public and in private, Klopas remained loyal to his hometown club and its owner, praising Hauptman every time he was prompted and often when he wasn't. But Klopas couldn't quite work magic with the roster he was given.
Now the Fire moves on to yet another coach. More important, it will look for another face of the franchise, because that's what Klopas has been more than anything else the past six years, the face of the Fire.
He was the hometown guy, the toast of Greek Town, the kid who signed with the Sting right out of Chicago's Mather High School and returned home to play on the Fire's inaugural 1998 U.S. Open Cup- and MLS Cup-winning team.
He was the guy who mixed easily with die-hard supporters, welcomed sick children and their families to training, the guy who stood before the media in good times and bad. Klopas personified the club's creed: Tradition, Honor, Passion.
He was the only former Fire player who remained visibly associated with the club.
Now the club will have to find a new face. Now Klopas won't be around to shield others from blame if the Fire continues to miss the playoffs. His time is up.
Follow Orrin on Twitter @orrin_schwarz
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