Fire Postseason Report

Fire Postseason Report
November 3, 2012, 9:13 pm

Major League Soccer is only in the early stages of its postseason tournament, but all the votes for the individual awards and Best XI selections had to be in last week.
The leagues Coach-of-the-Year wont be announced until Nov. 27, but competition for it took an unexpected twist on Friday when a prime candidate Jesse Marsch abruptly resigned as head man of the expansion Montreal Impact.
My vote for Coach-of-the-Year didnt go to Marsch. Not meaning to seem like a homer, but my choice was the Fires Frank Klopas. Klopas took a team that had 10 wins in 44 games in 1 seasons under his predecessor, Carlos de los Cobos. Under Klopas the Fire salvaged a .500 season (9-9-16) in 2011 and qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2009 this season. The disappointing last six games notwithstanding, Klopas impact on his club was unmatched. Its improvement was largely due to coaching, as Klopas rosters reflected a massive rebuilding job.
While Klopas was my clear-cut choice for Coach-of-the-Year, my choice for second was Marsch. Ironically, Klopas and Marsch were teammates on the first Fire team that swept the MLS and U.S. Open Cups in its inaugural 1998 season.
Marsch kept playing after that, and was a mainstay in the Fire midfield before finishing his career with four seasons as captain of Chivas USA. He clearly had the personality for coaching in his playing days, and his first head job with Montreal proved that.
The Impact had a slow start, not unusual for expansion clubs, but it challenged for a playoff berth before finishing 12-16-6 and in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. Montreal owner Joey Saputo said the Impacts record had nothing to do with Marschs departure, said to be a mutual agreement by all involved in the decision-making.
"We did not share the same philosophy," said Marsch. "It wasnt easy, with the relationships weve built, but for me it was the right decision."
Montreal is way ahead of the rest of MLS in planning for 2013. The Impact leaves on Monday (Nov. 5) for 12-day tour of Italy, during which itll play two Serie A members, Bologna on Nov. 8 and Florentina on Nov. 15. The Impact is also the first MLS team to announce preseason plans for 2013. It will open camp on Jan. 19 and play in the Disney Pro tournament in Orlando, Fla., while training there from Feb. 9-23.
Two of Marschs assistants with Chicago ties will be on board at least for the Italian tour. Denis Hamlett, who took the Fire to the playoffs twice as its head coach in 2008 and 2009, and Mike Sorber, who completed his playing career in Chicago, were on Marschs staff.
As for Marsch, dont be surprised if he winds up coaching Chivas USA next season. That Los Angeles-based club struggled to a 7-18-9 record under the coaching of Robin Fraser this season. Only Toronto FC (which had 23 standings points) had few than Chivas USAs 30 this season.
WELCOME, COACH SERMANNI
The Fires season-ending 2-1 playoff loss to the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday coincided with the arrival of Tom Sermanni, who had just been named head coach of the U.S. womens team. He concluded the media rounds at Toyota Park in a pre-game meeting with reporters.
Sermanni, coach of the Australian national team for 11 years, has a tough act to follow. The U.S. women won the gold medal at the Summer Olympics in London and have been No. 1 in the FIFA Womens World Rankings since 2008.
"Most coaches come into a situation where a team is doing poorly and you want to try and turn things around," said Sermanni. "This is a different challenge, but the same principles apply. You just start from a much better base. You dont come into this job to make radical changes. You try to make the team even better, if thats possible. The most important thing is to try to keep winning.
Sermanni, in Chicago for just two days, will return to the U.S. in December to watch the last three matches of his new teams Fans Tribute Tour. Jill Ellis, U.S. womens development director for the Chicago-based U.S. Soccer Federation, will coach those matches before Sermanni takes over on Jan. 1. Hes hopeful a U.S. womens pro league will be in place for 2013.
"Some of our players might want the experience of going to Europe, and that could be beneficial in some cases," Sermanni said. "But if a new league gets up and running here my preference would be for them to play here.
CALLING FIRE HOPEFULS
The first step for the Fire in preparation for next season is the two-day open tryout, to be held for the fifth time at Bridgeview Soccer & Sports Dome on Dec. 14-15.
Fire coaches will select one player from the tryout to participate in the first phase of the 2013 preseason. Only once has the survivor of the open tryout actually made the first team. In 2011 Mount Prospect defender Pari Pantazopoulos did it. He beat out over 200 candidates from 19 countries in the open tryout, then survived all three phases of the preseason to make the team. He didnt crack the roster for 2012, however.
Registration for the open tryout is 150, and the deadline is Dec. 11.