Chicago Fire parts ways with Denis Hamlett

Denis Hamlett 1 (

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In a move that seemed inevitable for months, the Chicago Fire has parted ways with head coach Denis Hamlett and has chosen not to re-sign him as head coach. Hamlett's contract expires at the end of the calendar year.

Hamlett took over as Fire head coach before the 2008 season, replacing Juan Carlos Osorio. In two seasons as head coach, Hamlett posted a 24-17-19 regular season record and guided the Fire to two straight Eastern Conference finals. The Fire lost to the eventual MLS Cup champions in both cases.

Hamlett had been a part of the Fire's coaching staff since the club's start in 1998, serving as an assistant coach for Bob Bradley, Dave Sarachan and Osorio before becoming head coach in 2008.

Sources have told SBI for some time that Chicago's ownership wasn't sold on Hamlett and this was always going to be his last season in charge unless the Fire won a title. Chicago endured key injuries throughout the 2009 season but still managed to reach the SuperLiga Final and Eastern Conference Final (losing both on penalty kicks). Ultimately, the decision was made by Fire owner Andrew Hauptman and sporting director Javier Leon to move the team in a different direction.

Where will Chicago turn next? There are plenty of candidates available, with no real front-runner at the moment. The Fire had been interested in Preki, but he has since taken over at Toronto FC. Long-time Chicago Fire standout Chris Armas, former D.C. United head coach Tom Soehn, former Chivas USA, LA and Bayern Munich assistant Martin Vasquez, former KC head coach Curt Onalfo and current Red Bulls interim head coach Richie Williams should all be in the mix. Houston assistant John Spencer could also be in the mix after having turned down an approach from the Fire before Chicago hired Hamlett.

What is the SBI take on this move? I think letting Hamlett go is a mistake, but it has been clear for some time that Fire ownership didn't like Hamlett and wanted a fresh start with a new coach. With the club likely to endure a rebuilding season in 2010, the Fire had better find the right coach or next season could be a flop. There are some good available candidates out there, but none with better credentials over the past two years than Hamlett.

What do you think of this move? Surprised to see Hamlett let go? Think it was the right move? Who would you like to see take over?

Share your thoughts below.

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53 Responses to Chicago Fire parts ways with Denis Hamlett

  1. RedLine55 says:

    Not surprised… i just hope the new manager will be given at least a year before being judged (and sentenced)… With roster changes and losing many key players, it’s looking like next year might be rough no matter who’s the coach!

  2. Felix says:

    I’m not surprised. It’s sad in the context that he’s been with the Fire for awhile, but at the same time, I think it’s the right move. I never felt he was maximizing the potential of his roster.

  3. With one of if not THE deepest roster in MLS, Hamlett never maximized the talent of the Fire. Next coach better hope they resign Conde and Segares!

  4. Al17 says:


    he was the 1st employee hired by Peter Wilt, the very 1st and worked with when the Fire had a space briefly @ Soccer House.

    Whomever they bring in better be an upgrade.

    Actually, I expect this team to make an announcement soon in regards to the new coach, otherwise the guys running this club is alot dumber than I’ve given them credit.

    In regards to maximizing the potential of his roster, I would love for you to convince me what he should have done. I’ve had it with Fire fans and the “this is the best Fire team ever…” discussions, so have at in trying to enlighten me on what I’ve managed to not see during his tenure.

  5. Al17 says:

    Segares is GONE!!!! He will not be back. Conde is still under contract otherwise he’d be out of here. Hope like hell we can keep Pappa.

  6. Rolfe playing out of position for starters.

  7. They should have the money to keep Pappa, from the Soumare deal.

  8. EDB says:

    Not surprised, and a little glad. I don’t want a coach that gets in a fist fight with one of your top young players, that plays in a defensive shell like the fire did for most the year, can’t win at home when you have a great crowd.

    The only positive of his tenure was the supeliga finals

  9. Steve says:

    Hamlett should have never been made head coach. He was a good assistant, but again in 2008 he had the deepest roster in MLS and couldn’t use it properly. That team was so stacked the fact he couldn’t get us into the MLS Cup was a huge disappointment. Again and again he made stupid decisions and you could tell from the start of the season there seemingly was a wedge between him and the players. The Fire better get a decent coach, and not one from the bargain bin like I’m afraid of this rebuilding process will probably last until 2015.

  10. anon says:

    so being one win away from the final two years in a row was not a positive?

  11. fischy says:

    So, does Hamlett move on to Bradley’s USMNT staff?

  12. JL says:

    What are the chances Marsch retires and takes over the Fire? Same with Olsen in DC? Too early for both, with no previous coaching experience? I would like to see some new names appear in these coaching searches rather than the Vasquez, Williams, Onalfo bunch. You can’t tell me these 3 guys are the main candidates every team is looking at when none have that much winning experience. Then again, I guess the options are pretty limited these days, so perhaps I am wrong.

  13. anon says:

    sure its a disappointment not to make it…but certainly better to be that close than to not be.

  14. ELAC says:

    I’d like to see him go to USMNT. Or for fun, he could go to Chivas USA where he an Sacha Kjelstan can catch up on things?

  15. bf says:

    what is wrong with his head? (see posted picture)

  16. smellypolak says:

    maybe for a special olympian

  17. ETJ says:

    lol reminds me of that movie “Coneheads”

  18. DJ says:

    Losing twice is a negative, with a team built specifically with a two-year window. Losing the SuperLiga Final was a negative. Never winning a US Open Cup, and crashing out this year in the third round to a D3 side, was a negative. Getting into a fistfight with one of your key defenders, and chasing him off to France, was a negative.

  19. John Sweeny says:

    Hey delusional Al, he sat talent on the bench, he got into fights with players forcing them to leave, he failed to advance the Fire to the CCL, he won zero of anything in two years with Blanco as DP and a strong supporting cast, whoever they bring in WILL win something, anything, maybe a Brimstone Cup.

  20. Steve says:

    Brimstone Cup? Really? Way to aim high.

    Maybe it will snow in Chicago this winter! That would be awesome!

  21. C-note says:

    Slightly Mixed emotions. Hamlett was good in the sense that he would go out to the high schools and meet with students and soccer players. You can argue that the all have to do that, but the way that he did that was respectable.

    That said, I had a major issue with his subsistutions one year ago vs the Crew, as the Fire lost to them. I think that Chi-town could have won that game with other players on the field. (I get it, that is not the way it went and congrats to the Crew for winning that game and that year).

    This year his locker room fight with Baky was just plain be bad. I want to say that Ditka and Buddy Ryan were close to fighting 25 years ago, so how do those two have better tempers than Hamlett?

    Maybe the reason Conde had wanted to leave Chicago was partly loyalty to JCO at the time, but partly not buying what Hamlett sold.

    Given his departure now, it would have been great to have Nowak as coach. Maybe Marsch now. IF Armas would come bach to the coaching staff and head guy that could be something. What’s Willy Roy up to? Does Razov want to retire and coach?

  22. RedLine55 says:

    In light of new developments in the CL, i say BRING IN RAFA! ha

  23. Fireman451 says:

    Thanks for the years of service Denis, but I do think we needed to go in a different direction given that we’re heading into a rebuilding year.

    Denis had a highly talented club both years he ran the team and wasn’t able to make the necessary additions during the transfer windows to sure-up our needs and ultimately couldn’t win one single trophy with those teams. If Denis couldn’t win titles (USOC, Superliga, Supporters Shield, MLS Cup) with the 2008 or 2009 teams, I don’t feel he’d have much luck with a team about to enter the rebuilding process.

    Denis should be able to get a job coaching somewhere with his long term MLS assistant and head coaching experience.

  24. Glad I'm not an MLS coach! says:

    Seeing as Dennis was second choice for the job after John Spencer declined Chicago’s lowball salary offer, it doesn’t surprise me that he is getting fired. Management/owner that didn’t consider him the first choice was never going to fully support him behind the scenes no matter what they say publically. He did well with that team in the short period(2 years) he was head coach regardless of what people say.

    Whoever they hire better win in 1-2 years or they face the same fate as Hamlett. Talk about a short rope to hang yourself with!! Good luck, jeez.

  25. martha says:

    All of those candidates are less than inspiring. Heres hoping theres somebody better out there. How bout an interim until Bradley gets canned after the WC.

  26. anon says:

    fair enough, in the end he didn’t get it done and that is not debatable.

    smellypolak would it be less of a disappointment to lose in the first round or not make it at all? or is winning every year the only answer? of course winning it is preferable but to call getting to the conference finals two years in a row a failure is a bit much. again a disappointment but not a failure.

  27. scott47a says:

    Onalfo is a punk.

  28. anon says:

    yeah after what happened in KC its hard to believe Onalfo is a strong candidate for head coach anywhere.

  29. Fred says:

    I vote for Jesse Marsch of Racine.

  30. Gunnersfan66 says:

    I think he is a very good coach, and a little disappointed to see him go, but I can see why the front office made the decision. The new reality is that with the new teams in the league its not always going to be easy to just make it in the playoffs and win. I think new outside blood would help the league, don’t get one of the recycled MLS coaches. Bring something new. Fire still had a good season, but didn’t get it over the line, and they were at home with an incredible crowd behind them.

  31. JoeW says:

    There’s another point about this decision with Hamlett (and it applies to Soehn, Preki, etc.). The league is becoming much more competive. There are higher standards for success. There is more pressure to succeed. All of those are a good thing. It means that unlike a lot of past seasons, increasingly, most games matter. Soon–maybe with a few more expansion teams, EVERY game will matter. That will raise the level of play more than a higher cap will (though I’m in favor of a higher cap), more than another DP per team (though I’m in favor of that), more than retaining young American talent (like Grilla or Rolfe though I’m in favor of that).

    It’s reaching the point where in a couple of years, if a coach goes a month (ie: 4-6 games) without some good results (meaning wins) they’ll likely be toast. And that kind of pressure has downsides (teams play for ties or sit back and seek only to counter while parking a bus in front of goal). But it also produces more tactical adaptation each game, it produces more pressure, and it will produce sharper players who operate better under pressure. And all of those are good.

    Whether Hamlett deserved to be let go (officially, not renewed) or not, I can’t say–not close enough to the chicago situation. But the overall coaching turnover in the league this year indicates an unwillingness to tolerate mediocrity (like not making the playoffs, or coming close but no cigar). Whether those standards are unrealistic or not, they raise the bar. And as Martha Stewart would say….that’s a good thing.

  32. Joaquin says:

    As someone else mentioned, relegating Chris Rolfe to the bench and to right midfield was a mistake. He is a dangerous forward and was not used as one for most of the last 2 years

    Insisting on never taking McBride out of a match was a mistake…pairing McBride and Blanco at forward while trying to play counter attack ball was a mistake.

    Why take an attacking midfielder and convert him to a forward? Why take a forward and convert him to a right midfielder when you have had one for years that could play that position (Thorrington)?

    Fighting a player at halftime is inexcusable.

    The list can continue but I will stop here.

  33. The Wild Mushroom says:

    Let’s bring back 0sorry-0.

  34. Felix says:

    They were inconsistent for starters, he got into a “bust-up” (as our English cousins call it) with our best defender and he played one of our best pure finishers out of position. Plus, he never came close to getting Justin Mapp to play to his potential.
    I’m not going to call them the best team on paper ever….. but it was an excellent side, and they never even reached MLS Cup, something the maligned Dave Sarachan accomplished.

  35. Joe says:

    You cant honestly think that he is a good coach. He is forever a #2. He NEVER played to win the game. He always played not to lose. Sure I want them to win the game every time. The talent alone got them to the places they went. They were held back by Denis the Menace and you know it. I know they are not going to be close the team talent wise for a good 2 years but I hope the new coach plays attractive football and plays to win games at home. That would be a start.

  36. Joe says:

    We got robbed on the Soumare deal and that wont be enough to cover Pappa. 2.3 mil for a 6’3″, young, international defender with a French passport is unbelievable by the front office. There is no way Pappa costs less than 3 mil.

  37. Joe says:

    The way we lost is a failure and Hamlett is the reason. What person would put our 2 slowest players alone up top in a game that is screaming counter attack. Takes off Pappa and Rolfe in a game that is going to PK’s to put in Mapp and Nyarko. We were 2 completely different sides from NE to RSL. And that is Hamletts fault. He needed to go, he was never the guy they wanted and were forced to go with him.

  38. huddalis says:

    “The Fire had been interested in Preki”

    Classic Ives, printing a baseless rumor as fact because he played a part in propagating this mistruth…

    (SBI-Right. Whatever you say genius.)

  39. Juan Carlos Osorio, Soccer Legend says:

    You know, my wife enjoyed shopping in Chicago….

  40. Al17 says:

    Actually it was the truth and not exactly a good secret.

    The Fire fans slamming Denis are the same ones whom were nuts about Osorio before he left and keep in mind we barely made the play-offs under the Great Osorio, so being one of the few at the time who thought Osorio was over rated, I’m feeling damn good in my assessment of coaches. My question to those same Fire fans – are you ready for the dark ages with our club? We don’t make the play-offs next season, lemme know how you feel.

    I wish nothing but the best for Denis.

  41. Sean says:

    I vote Ditka next Chicago Fire head coach

  42. gihilaehgi says:

    he has a funny head

  43. RK says:

    I was just about to post that :) Surely I’m not the only one that noticed he has a mohawk.

  44. C-note says:

    Daaaaaa Fiirruuurrreee!!!! I wonder what that would do for ticket sales my friend. Would the booths have Ditka pork chops and pinot gregiot? Da Coaaaach.

  45. aristotle says:

    Continuing with the head thing: He looks like he could get a part as an alien on a Star Trek or sci-fi show. Seriously, he does not have the type of head that should be uncovered.

    On a less silly note, will any coach ever take advantage of the great roster that Chicago seems to have year after year?

  46. DC Josh says:

    Don’t come to United. Anything associated with the Fire can stay away from DC. The Fire was the deepest team in ’09 and he failed to win something. He is mediocre.

  47. c says:

    On the flip side, he never showed up a single time to any of the fan events.

    For God’s sake he even refused to show up for the “Coach’s Corner” that they arranged for STH after 1 game. They had to send the tech director instead.

  48. c says:

    Osorio came in and turned the team around. Making the playoffs required an amazing run that the fire put together. I think they were unbeaten in their last 8-10 games or something after sucking ass the first half.

    But obviously that didn’t translate well in NY

  49. John says:

    the Fire needs to hire Matko as the head coach. There is no better option out there. This man knows how to win and knows how to get the most out of every player. Plus he is from Chicago and Chicago born players will want to come home and play for him.

  50. Chris in Belfast says:

    I think it’s kind of funny that the picture of Denis changed.

    Good luck in whatever you do next, coach.

  51. Scott says:

    I have a friend in the Fire organization (coaching with their academy teams) and he said the players have ABSOLUTELY NO RESPECT for Hamlett. He runs poor training sessions, doesn’t relate to the players, makes poor decisions with personnel and tactics. The joke has been that he must have nude photos of the Fire brass or he would have been fired long ago!

  52. barnie says:

    how about pato marhetic?

  53. barnie says:

    lol, I can see Ditka walking off the field giving everyone the finger!