New coach Frank Yallop believes the Chicago Fire "with a bit of tinkering, is a good squad."
A defensive specialist who coached San Jose to a pair of Major League Soccer Cup championships a decade ago, Yallop was hired Thursday to replace the Frank Klopas. He was fired Tuesday after New York eliminated the Fire from the MLS playoff race for the third time in the last four seasons.
"I think the nucleus of this squad is good," Yallop said after agreeing to a multi-year contract. "It's making sure I get the best out of the guys I have and adding some players I feel will enhance the team I already have."
Fire owner Andrew Hauptman made the decision to fire Klopas and managing director Javier Leon, the team's general manager, in the wake of Sunday's 5-2 loss to New York, though he admitted the move was being considered for some time. Klopas and Leon had worked together in the front office since 2008, Klopas taking over as coach after Carlos de los Cobos was fired early in the 2011 season.
"It's the body of work," Hauptman said. "We've had six years of leadership. I didn't take the situation lightly. Frank and Javier put their heart and soul into the club. It was time for a change."
The Fire finished 14-13-7, with 51 points, identical to Montreal, but missed the playoffs on goal differential. They made the playoffs last season but lost to Houston in the first round.
Yallop, the MLS coach of the year in 2012, was fired by San Jose after the Earthquakes started the 2013 season 3-6-6. They rebounded after Mark Watson took over, but like the Fire, missed the MLS playoffs on a points tiebreaker.
"I wouldn't say it was a parting of the ways, but it was the best thing for both parties," Yallop said.
Time for change
Chicago's last Eastern Conference Final appearance was in 2009. The Fire has missed the playoffs three times in the last four seasons. That was too often for Hauptman, a Los Angeles-based businessman who bought the team in 2007.
"I won't shy away from wanting to compete," Hauptman said. "But it's important to show patience as well."
He did that through several coaching changes, from Denis Hamlett to de los Cabos to Klopas. Leon has headed the front office since 2008, shortly after Hauptman bought the team. Hauptman said he wanted to move quickly so Yallop can take over control of soccer operations.
"We can have a seamless transition," Hauptman said.
Yallop will meet with his players early next week.
"This team has always been difficult to play against," said Yallop, when San Jose was 1-0-2 against the Fire in its last three MLS matches when he coached.
The 49-year-old Yallop was 117-107-84 in 11 seasons with San Jose and the Los Angeles Galaxy. He also coached the Canadian national team, leading it to the third round of qualifying for the 2006 World Cup.
The Earthquakes won the MLS Cup in 2001, his first season in charge, when he also picked up the first of his two coach of the year awards. The Earthquakes beat the Fire for the 2003 MLS Cup, his second title in three seasons. A defender, he played for Ipswich Town in the English League for 13 years, joining Tampa Bay of the MLS in 1996.