It is the best feeling in the world. Our Chicago Fire look to be hitting top form at the most perfect time of the year. As we close in on the final few matches before the MLS Cup playoffs, the Fire have started to really roll, taking away six points vs. Toronto FC and Colorado. A two game winning streak is not something to normally get overly excited about, but if you've watched the last few matches - any of this season really - there is a hope that better things are just over the horizon. On top of that, the Men in Red secured a chance at their record tying 5th US Open Cup last night, beating Richmond 2-1 at Toyota Park. It is always a joy to watch your team hit top form (as a Fire and Chelsea fan, it can be hit or miss) but when a team that has performed the way the Fire have this season, you have to ask how they are turning it on all of a sudden. Of course there are a number of reasons, but here are a few.
We can all agree that Carlos de los Cobos did a lousy job as Fire head coach. So much so, that probably any replacement would look great in comparison. But the fact that Frank Klopas is not Carlos de los Cobos is not the only reason why I like him. He managed to bring the Fire back from the bottom of the table to genuine playoff hopefuls. Yes, there are still a few teams to beat for us to grab the last playoff spot, but there’s still time. And if our recent performance is any indication
(3 wins and 7 goals in the last 4 regular season matches), I think we actually have a chance – albeit small.
Klopas’ changes to the lineup and formation have been incredibly important for this team. As technical director, he has done well to acquire Gargan, Oduro, Chaves, Grazzini, Paladini, Pardo, Barouch (on loan), and Cuesta, just to name a few. As coach, he has done well to put these players to good use. We’ve mentioned before how the defense has strengthened by the addition of Gargan and by Anibaba’s subsequent move back to CB. The pair of Oduro and Nyarko up front has been fantastic. The midfield doesn’t have any weak spots, in my opinion. Not to mention his use of subs during games has been very effective. What more can you ask for? Nothing.
The bottom line is Frank Klopas has brought momentum and energy to a club that was going nowhere fast. He has a strong relationship with the players. They respect him. If he stays on as coach next season I think we can expect great things from the Fire. I would love to see him get a shot at coaching for a full season.
Chicago Fire forward Dominic Oduro is eligible for this week’s AT&T Goal of the Week. Help him beat Lamar Neagle of Seattle, Josh Gardner of Columbus, and Bobby Warshaw of Dallas to take home Chicago’s first Goal of the Week this season. With 9 goals in 2011, he’s earned it. Follow this link to watch all of the candidates' goals and cast your vote.
The Chicago Fire Soccer Club announced this afternoon that they have formed a new partnership with Atletico Madrid, Club América and Sport Club Internacional. The whole press release can be read here.
This partnership will be instrumental in growing the popularity of the club outside the borders of the United States. In partnering with these other clubs, the Fire will hopefully be able to gain valuable insight into how to turn the club into a more well known club outside the CONCACAF region. The knowledge they will gain about various aspects of how these other clubs run will be huge - the player development aspect of it alone will be a big step forward for the Fire.
MLS is really a league of two types of teams. The teams that are well known outside the US, where big name players from other areas of the world want to come play - the LA's and New York's. And then there's the teams that are content with operating like smaller market teams and don't necessarily have the huge recognition worldwide. As much as I love the fact that the Fire players, staff, and overall team are so accessible to the fan base and interact with their supporters, I would love for the club to get more recognized around the world. It will lead to bigger things for both the Chicago Fire and MLS.