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Could Frank Klopas return as Fire coach next year?

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When Frank Klopas was tabbed to replace the sacked Ezra Hendrickson, most assumed he would lead the Fire for the rest of the season before a new coach was hired.

The way the Fire have played since Klopas took over has led to a different question: Should he get the job full-time?

Before the Leagues Cup break, the Fire had won five of their last six MLS matches. The bad habit of squandering leads — which helped doom Hendrickson — has not been an issue. Klopas’ love for the Fire and Chicago soccer is genuine, and his players are performing like they’re buying into his passionate messages about the franchise and what it would mean to revive the club.

Tactically, Klopas has found ways to get more out of attacking midfielders Xherdan Shaqiri and Brian Gutierrez when they share the field. Defending also has improved, as the Fire showed by shutting out four of their last five opponents, including the last three.

Most important, the Fire have pushed into a playoff spot, and the arrow on their season looks to be pointing up, regardless of how they fare in the Leagues Cup. 

If Klopas wanted to use that to campaign for the job, he’d be entitled to. However, he indicated after the July 15 win over Toronto FC that pitching himself to Fire brass is not the primary emphasis.

“They’ve asked me to step in, and there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for the club,” Klopas said. “I feel that I’ve spent a lot of years in many different roles, I have a lot of experience. I just want to help the club. I think right now, it’s way too early for me to assess and say anything. My main focus, I think for all of us right now, is getting into the playoffs and preparing for the next game, and then we’ll see.”

This isn’t the first time Klopas has stepped in to replace a dismissed coach.

In May 2011, he replaced Carlos De Los Cobos and kept the job through the end of the 2013 season. In 2012, he led the Fire to one of their two postseason appearances since 2009. Then, after a two-year sojourn with the Montreal Impact that included an improbable run to the Concacaf Champions League final, Klopas returned to the Fire. He was working as a color commentator on their broadcasts when he was tabbed to assist Raphael Wicky before the 2020 season.

Wicky’s brief tenure ended in September 2021, and Klopas coached the Fire for the rest of that dreary season. This time, the ending might be different, and maybe Klopas will deserve the job on a permanent basis.

Regardless, Klopas is a veteran of the soccer business and seems ready to roll with whatever comes his way.

“If I wanted to step in as a coach, and if it doesn’t work out here, the clock is always ticking, you know?” Klopas said. “At some point, you’re going to be gone, and I don’t want to leave Chicago. So that’s a decision and a conversation that we need to have in the end, with the sporting director and technical director and also with our owner.”



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