New Chicago Fire coach Frank Klopas answered questions by conference call today. I took part and asked Klopas if the opponent matters less this week while he devotes most of his attention to changing the culture of his own team.
That opponent, of course, is Sounders FC. But Klopas seemed to take exactly the opposite attitude, saying that he wants to concentrate on consistency with his own team while preparing them very specifically for Seattle.
"I think the most important thing with the team is the continuity, and it’s hard to come in and change a lot of things around, because I think that’s not what the team needs with a lot of new players," he said. "I think the most important thing is consistency and continuity. We have to look at the opponent in two ways: We have to know everything there is to know about our opponent and based on the way they attack, how they defend, how many guys they commit forward, how many full players do they keep back in the preventive zone. So just to make sure in every zone we try to have numerical superiority. And also it’s important to see – not only for myself but for the players – to know their tendencies. How they like to attack in their set pieces, do they have a different way they play at home and on the road, how do they react when they’re down, how to they react when they’re up. So all of that helps me and the players know what to expect. This is stuff that we’ll go over this week. Every opponent is different. It’s not drastic changes, it’s basically just the areas that we need to be aware of in both phases of the game, and what will give us better opportunities in the attacking phase and also on the defensive side of the game."
That emphasis actually provides some advantage to the Fire. Because while they are studying Seattle, the Sounders admit they have no idea what to expect from Chicago under its new coach.
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"He’s never coached in the league," Schmid said. "Although I know Frankie well from having coached him; but it’s still a situation you’re not quite sure is he going to change formations, is he going to change personnel, are there certain players he likes versus who the old coach liked. And obviously our expectation is that they’re going to come out Saturday with an emense amount of energy. The first 20 minutes they’re going to be buzzing all over the place."
Klopas not only played under Schmid on the 1994 U.S. national team, but he also was a national team teammate of goalkeeper Kasey Keller. So, I asked him about that, too.
"With Kasey I go way back, when I played with him on the national team," Klopas said. "Great goalkeeper; I have tremendous respect for him. And also Sigi was my coach on the ’94 team. A lot of fond memories of both of them. I have tremendous respect, but come this weekend, obviously once the game starts we’re enemies until the end of the game."