On Halloween morning 2013 Frank Yallop sat in a small meeting room at the Blackstone Hotel and described how he would make the Chicago Fire a winning soccer club again.
Yallop, introduced that day by Fire owner Andrew Hauptman as the club's seventh coach as well as its director of soccer, was confident and happy. He didn't know he didn't stand a chance.
It's a lesson the men who might be considered to succeed Yallop ignore at their own peril.
The Fire sent Yallop packing Sunday after just less than two full seasons with a combined record of 13-26-24. This year's team already has set a club record for losses in a season one year after setting a league record for ties in a season. One year after placing ninth in the Eastern Conference, the Fire has the worst record in the league, 20th out of 20.
Technical director Brian Bliss will finish the season as interim coach, with former team captain Logan Pause moving from vice president to interim assistant coach. Assistant coaches Marc Bircham and Clint Mathis were dismissed with Yallop.
Major League Soccer and U.S. Soccer veteran administrator Nelson Rodriguez will join the Fire on Oct. 19 as general manager.
"Nelson is a proven leader with a stellar national reputation, an exceptionally skilled soccer mind and has extensive experience working alongside players and coaches," Hauptman said in a team news release. "He is uniquely qualified to build and manage our technical team and lead our club, while more closely aligning our on-field efforts with the activities of our dynamic front office led by COO Atul Khosla."
A league spokesman said it was not involved with the Rodriguez hire.
"I share our fans' frustration and, while we've enjoyed success off the pitch, I'm obviously not happy with the results on it. I felt the need to make changes now in order to better position ourselves for the off-season and beyond," Hauptman said. "I have tremendous confidence about the future of this club in Nelson's hands and am beyond thrilled to bring him to Chicago."
How much power Rodriguez has to run the club independently of Hauptman will determine whether the Fire has a chance to succeed.
Yallop is a good man. He made many mistakes in how he built the roster, how he trained it and his game-day tactics. But fans are misguided if they're pinning the Fire's failings solely on Yallop.
It's not a coincidence that the Fire's descent to MLS bottom feeder has paralleled Hauptman's ownership. Yallop unequivocally was Hauptman's choice, but today Hauptman has to admit that Yallop -- a man who for other teams won two MLS Cups, won the Supporters' Shield and was league coach of the year -- couldn't succeed here.
The Fire has had five coaches since Hauptman bought the team in 2007, and he's searching for Coach No. 6.
Hauptman changes coaches about as often as Keith Olbermann changes jobs.
The new coach should rent, not buy, his new home.
Coaches Carlos de los Cobos, Frank Klopas and Denis Hamlett were let go. Juan Carlos Osorio, the coach Hauptman inherited in 2007, scampered off to New York after just a few months on the job. Hamlett succeeded Osorio, took Hauptman's team to two more conference championship games and was told that wasn't good enough. Hauptman's team has only played one playoff game since then.
Hamlett's not good enough looks pretty good these days.
The Fire missed the MLS playoffs just once in its first 10 seasons. This year will be the fifth miss in the last six seasons, a striking record of failure in a league that keeps so many teams playing beyond the regular season.
Fans must hope Hauptman follows the model of Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz: hire good people like Rodriguez to run his organization, give them the resources they need, get out of the way so they can do their jobs without interference, then bask in the glory when they succeed.
Until he does that, Hauptman will be setting up his coaches to fail.
Follow Orrin on Twitter at @Orrin_Schwarz.