Chicago’s coaching flop

Carlos De Los Cobos ( 

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When you're hired to replace a successful head coach, particularly when that coach was dumped rather than retired or quit, you had better do at least as well as your predecessor.

By any measure, Carlos De Los Cobos has failed as Chicago Fire head coach since replacing Denis Hamlett, who was let go despite two successful seasons in charge. De Los Cobos has taken a talented team and led it to the brink of the worst season in the club's otherwise impressive history.

How bad is it for the Fire? Chicago is riding a seven match winless streak (six of those matches coming after the additions of Designated Players Freddie Ljungberg and Nery Castillo) and the skid has left the Fire 12 points out of the playoffs.

This for a team that came within a penalty kick shootout loss of the 2009 MLS Cup Final.

Here is my piece for Fox Soccer on De Los Cobos' forgettable first season in charge of the Fire. Give the story a read and let me know what you think of Chicago's coach and what's next for the Fire.

Share your thoughts below.

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65 Responses to Chicago’s coaching flop

  1. TheUltra says:

    Piss on the fire. I’m loving this Schadenfreude at the moment.

  2. This Guy says:

    DLC has got to go. Period.

    All the right players coupled with all the wrong decisions has crippled this squad this year.

    BTW: Bedoya just scored in the first minute.

  3. This Guy says:

    Well written article too Ives. I read it earlier and then again when you just posted it. It made me realize how harsh I was on DH when I didn’t realize it could get worse.

  4. Matt says:

    Ives your just loving what is going on in Chicago aren’t you! Though CDLC is obviously not working out do you really think Hamlett was all the good of a coach is so why didn’t he get a sniff of a MLS job?

    (SBI-Not really. I’d love to see Chicago have a good team and doing well. The myth that I hate Chicago is right up there with the old myth that I hate Columbus. Just because I call a team out on things doesn’t mean I have something against it. Just saying what I feel needs to be said.)

  5. sal says:

    Or hell even a proper college job?

  6. Blake says:

    As a Fire fan, I do not understand other Fire fans defending this clown. I’ve wanted his head since the Toronto game a few weeks back and they’ve lost 3 straight since then.

    I don’t drive 3 hours one way to Toyota Park just to watch the third most expensive team in the league get outclassed on the pitch by scrub teams like T dot.

  7. smokedgouda says:

    Its too bad too being McBride’s final season and all that he has to go out with such a slumping team. Freddie L is possibly the biggest waste of money an MLS team has spent.

  8. Doug says:

    Nice article, Ives. Fair enough, harsh enough. Some management moves are gambles, and some don’t pay off. Bad judgment mixed with bad luck spells a bad season.

  9. cesba says:

    Could the lack of success have anything to do with two hugely ineffective designated players?

    Or maybe a team that was definitely not as good as the one that was headed by the coach that got “dumped”?

  10. Luis F says:

    Shocking that you can’t find a way to pair guys like McBride or John with some of their talent. I was shocked to see the lineup the Fire put on the field against Seattle last weekend. It was an attacking lineup focused on a target forward, but DLC didn’t include either of his target forwards.

    I actually think he should stay. It’s always fun to see opposing teams coached into irrelevance.

  11. Michael F. SBI Mafia Original says:

    Karma. Hamlett never should have been fired.
    They deserve this bad spell.
    McBride doesn’t.

  12. otergod says:

    that would actually force dlC to play with 2 strikers, and god forbid he ever do that :-/

  13. otergod says:

    If results were the end all be all determinate then sure, but there was plenty of drama off field (as well as on field) to warrant the firing.

    If i had the option between dlC and Hamlett, id surely pick Hamlett. No contest. He’s capable b/c he knows MLS and able to keep his players playing honest. The team under dlC looks scared and out of comfort. In his defense though, he was handed apples and was told to make Orange juice.

  14. otergod says:

    unfortunately, our lack of success started way before Ljungberg and Castillo’s arrival

  15. EDB says:

    I think people are overrating the talent on chicago.. They have an about to retire brown and mcbride who are a year older. They have headcases they have bounced around in John and Castillo ( when he plays) , They have Krol who didn’t seem to work out , young guys who need time, and then the injuries that hit nyarko and pappa especially through out the year..

    Did the fire expect better yes , is DLC getting enough from the players no, is he playing the right system for the players no, but is this team as good as the one 2 years ago or even last year? no ..

  16. Luis F says:


    Couldn’t he start McBride OR John as the target man with Ljungberg behind him? That’s essentially what he did on Saturday but with Calen Carr as the lone striker. If you want your wingers to get involved in the game, then you’re going to need to have somebody up top who can hold the ball and distribute out wide. Carr is not that player.

    An additional note. For all the games Ljungberg played in Seattle, I never felt he had a natural position. I’m not sure he’s better as an attacking CM with freedom to roam, or whether he’s better out wide. I can’t help thinking that if he plays centrally, he’ll end up roaming into the space of whoever is playing wide right. For that reason, I don’t think Ljungberg in a central position makes much sense.

  17. otergod says:

    If we were in the same spot but were at least playing attractive attack minded football i wouldnt concern myself. BUT, we are playing extremely POORLY and doing this bad.

    If i saw improvement towards dlC’s playing style and were still hit with unfavorable results, id give him a 2nd season

    HOWEVER, i see no signs of improvement and dont see it happening over the offseason. Its time to find a new manager, and dlC will go back to El Salvador where he’s wanted

  18. I havent’ seen many people mention the loss of Rolfe from last year.

    There is encouragement for the future, as flashes have been shown from Nyarko and Pappa. The enigmas remain Castillo and Collins John. Also, underrated play from Logan Pause.

    Too often their 4-1-4-1 becomes more of a 6-3-1, unable to counterattack and impose their style (whatever the hell that is) on the opponent.

    Sean Johnson has the makings of a top MLS GK.

    A quick turnaround next year can be had if the team has a system in place that it believes in, with a competent coach who doesn’t make HORRIBLE substitutions.

  19. otergod says:

    He’s played either John or BMB all season as lone strikers, occassionally partnering them up with a roaming 2nd striker. But he has no idea how to get his team to work together. We see flashes, but it never pans out

  20. DC Josh says:

    Dennis Hamlet, you are welcome to DC anytime. I’m not sure why he does not have a job in MLS. I am happy to see a DC-rival sucking even though my team is the suckiest of them all this season. They have top notch talent and can’t get it done. Time for a change.

  21. AL17 says:

    Ives — MAXIMUM R-E-S-P-E-C-T!!!!!

  22. Charles says:

    Chicago lost all of those games after Ljungberg arrived……

    Man, I wonder what Seattle has done since he left ?

    Hottest team in the league ?!!?

    Who would have thought ?

    I mean besides me, many, many months ago….

    He is just not MLS starter quality.

  23. much of the problem lies with player management, Chicago had opportunities in the off season to bring in a quality CM (the major source of Chicago’s woes).The front office also was slow at bringing in relief players, even though he was impressive in training and they had a roster slot open ;it took them 3 months to sign Ristic.There are other glaring issues which have taken place over the last year with personnel decisions,Carlos is the easy target here-but not the only one at fault.When it comes down to it the off season decision to pass over competent and available European playmakers-and wait it out for something more “marketable” is the knife in this years season.This goes to the top of the organization and possibly to NY with the league office’s desire for Chicago to have at least one well known Mexican player at Toyota Park.

  24. alf says:

    Extremely poor job by dlC, I agree. Partly a classic case of overcoaching: whether they won or lost, the line-up for next game was guaranteed to be different. Partly just really bad decision making – loosing your starting goalkeeper right before the season start and then going with a rookie who ends up being replace half way through the season with another rookie (this one actually good) – wtf? That’s bush-league stuff, pun intended. Chicago has the potential to have a very solid midfield with Nyarko, Pappa, Husidic, Pause, Thorington, and for a brief while in June they all seemed to click somewhat, but the changes just kept coming ….

  25. Second City says:

    Says the schmuck who defended DLC when I voiced my extreme displeasure for his ineptitude MONTHS & MONTHS ago when I called for his head.

    Welcome to the “sanity party”. 99.9% of us have been here for ages.


    Btw, I’d be happy to provide links later tonight in the event you pretend to act clueless to my reference of our interaction.

  26. David says:

    I am suprised there is no mention in the article of the lose of Blanco. There is a lot of talent in that team but when you lose a guy that talented and who for whatever reason is just a winner, it changes a teams makeup.

  27. Smith says:

    Great article. Well thought out.

    As an RBNY supporter, I cannot express how much I’m enjoying the Fire’s Failure this season.

  28. Smith says:

    A typo though:

    “Since Hauptman bought the Fire, the club has had three head coaches and is extremely likely to have a fourth coach on the sidelines when 2010 begins. ”

    Uh, 2010 already began.

    There’s only one man for the Chicago job and we all know who it is.

  29. inkedAG says:

    Hey Fire fans! I hear that Juan Carlos Osorio is looking for work!!


  30. Oranje Mike says:

    Your point?

  31. This Guy says:

    I’ve defended him for awhile. I’ll admit it.

  32. This Guy says:

    I defended him on BS too and took my hits for it.

  33. otergod says:

    glad that its finally not happening to you??

  34. otergod says:

    perhaps we can go back in time and prevent this hiring?? perhaps convince Klopas to look elsewhere

  35. otergod says:

    even we arent that desperate

  36. Second City says:

    Since you’re being a stand up guy about it,I’ll refrain from any further douchebaggery.

    With that said, given we’re finally on the same page and both Fire supporters, I ask: what now?

    Any particular manager come to mind on your radar or stay the course?

    My personal opinion: heads need to roll in the front office. Giving Hamlet the boot, investing too much salary cap in Mapp over Rolfe and finally this hiring. It’s time to hold them accountable.

  37. TD says:

    Sarachan and Hamlett were both canned for no cause. Bring back Sarachan – now doing a bang up as associate coach for the Galaxy.

  38. galloway84 says:

    I do not blame this on De Los Cobos. It is not all De Los Cobos fault. Remember he came in with guys their were in the previous regime. The guys like Pause, Brown, McBride (who is on his legs), John, Lowry, Dimitrov, Carr, Lowry, Banner, Umanzor, Conde and Castillo won’t cut it in his system that he wants to form. Also, Frank Klopas should get his share of the blame for putting this roster; he needs to shape up the team next year or else. Ives thinks Hamlett was such a great coach, why did not get an MLS job right away instead he just got hired by IIT junior college in Chicago (aka computer engineering school)? Hamlett in Chicago, rubbed the media the wrong way with his smug fashion. Hamlett had a championship team couldn’t get past the Conference Finals with his inept coaching. De Los Cobos roster is totally different from Hamlett’s. De Los Cobos is new to the league compared to where he coached.

    (SBI-I like how, in the same comment, you manage to make the points that A) De Los Cobos had too many of Hamlet’s old players and B) De Los Cobos’ roster is totally different from Hamlett’s. Which one is it? As for why Hamlett didn’t get another job yet, the only one that has been open since he was let go was D.C. and given how that situation went it probably isn’t a strike against him that he wasn’t considered. Hamlett did interview for the Portland job and will be a candidate for openings this winter.)

  39. Martin Vasquez says:

    Carlos DLC is no failure. I know failure. I’m the biggest joke of the MLS.

  40. Smith says:

    Yes, actualy.

  41. tsingletonvt says:

    Ives, nice article. Can you please focus the same lens on Kraft and his stewardship of the Revs and soccer in NE?

  42. fischy says:

    Let’s look at your logic. This is a league where Hamlett is fired and can’t get rehired, but where Onalfo gets a second head coach job, where DCL and Vazquez and Preki all flame out in spectacular fashion, and before them, Ruud Gullit…not to mention the way the Red Bulls handled their coaching carousel all these years.

    If Hamlett can’t even get a sniff from MLS teams. maybe that speaks well about Hamlett.

  43. Allegre says:

    Beat me to it!

  44. CACuzcatlan says:

    If he wasn’t a good coach, how do you explain his two successful seasons in charge?

  45. smurf says:

    Instant karma for firing a winning coach like Hamlett.

    They brought in CDLC for more “attacking soccer”? What a joke! They haven’t scored in the run of play in a month!

  46. galloway84 says:

    here is good stuff on Hamlett showing his true colors: link to

  47. Fred says:

    Ives, great commentary. I’m a Fire fan and officially gave up on this season last weekend. There will definitely be a new coach on the sidelines next season.

    Just a minor (or major?) adjustment that needs to be made to your thesis in your article:

    In the fourth paragraph stating why the Fire have had such a miserable season, should it not be “can” instead of “can’t”?

  48. Aguinaga says:

    My thoughts exactly, thanks for beating me to it. Words fail. Up the Metro!

  49. Paul says:

    They would like to say Dave Saracan’s team leftovers, except he was their target as well. they got what they asked for with predictable results. The same
    Mob hates Logan Pause, a very decent mls dm

  50. FireFireFire says:

    One thing people don’t seem to realize is that Hamlett is married and he has other things going on in Chicago and doesn’t want to leave. His wife also has a good job. Maybe he’s not interested in these other jobs? Of course, it’s not like these other teams are making great decisions either. Toronto, DC, Kansas City.

    DLC needs to go. Maybe the team didn’t become a championship team under Hamlett, but DLC has destroyed a championship team. He needs to go. I don’t care about a system. You’re not going to be able to build a roster in MLS to play like Barca. If you want to try, have fun with six wins in 24 games. Feel better?

  51. Paul says:

    Very True. marsch would for me too.

  52. FireFireFire says:

    Luis is a terrible writer and a bad person. I wouldn’t trust anything he says. Notice how he’s disappeared. Typical coward.

  53. Haig says:

    The stupidity of those who accuse Ives of an agenda baffles me. He was a beat reporter who came down harder on Metro/RB than any other reporter and most fans. He asked hard questions, and players and the team often treated him like a leper.

    This website is doing something very ambitious: creating a league-wide, independent Internet news site that is primarily concerned with soccer in the USA. Accusations of bias are wrong. All SBI does is hold every team accountable for the team it puts on the field. As a fan, I am grateful for this source of MLS news. Really, the competition is MLS’s official site, which has some great writers, but exercises a heavy editorial hand when it gets down to laying things bare.

    Some of you youngins need perspective.

  54. This Guy says:

    Don’t have a clue but I like this squad mixed with a Latin style. But, I don’t know.

  55. AQK says:

    all year long he only played them together late in the game when they were behind.

    Frankly: LEOTARDED.

  56. AQK says:

    his ego destroys team chemistry.

  57. Kevin says:

    I am not completely sold on the fact that this seasons lack of performance should be attributed to the coaching of De Los Cobos. Several things went wrong which were beyond the control of the coaching staff: 1) the loss off Blanco, Rolfe and Segares for half a season 2) the injuries to Thorrington, Nyarko, Castillo, Carr and John 3) the suspensions of Mapp, Ljungberg, Krol, Segeras and Conde 4) the lack of play from the aging vets McBride and Brown 5) and the release of Busch for the inexperienced Dykstra. All this can affect the continuity of play for throughout the season.

  58. Joe says:

    We need a coach that is going to come in and change things up a bit. DLC came in and played the same formation with the same players. But instead of keeping our outside backs back, he pushed them up and left us exposed in the back. Our forwards aren’t finishing this year and our defenders think they are midfielders. We get killed on the counter because it is Pause, Conde and Brown trying to defend their forwards and outside mids because of the outside backs trying to move up too much.

    As for Hamlett, he was never going to win us an MLS Cup. There was a reason he was the 3rd choice when he was hired. He is strictly a defense coach and forever a number 2. He made it to the semi finals 2 years in a row and still couldn’t land a job in the MLS because he is forever a number 2. He is at IIT now and that isn’t anywhere near the level he was coaching at a year ago. I’m glad Hamlett is gone, I just wish that we got someone other than DLC to replace him…

  59. Adam says:

    As many above have mentioned, Chicago’s problem lay in that they’re not even improving. Even with the addition of two DP’s they’ve not moved forward, moreover they’ve moved back.

    The promise of attacking soccer is inherently meant to mean exciting, forward thinking soccer that happens while winning. dlC may instill a technically prettier and more aesthetically pleasing style of play, but without the W’s in that W/L columns, you’re not just of little use, you’re worthless.

  60. biersal says:

    Good commentary…too bad they didn’t hire back Peter Wilt and let him run the show.

    “at the hands of USSF Division-2 side Charleston” Don’t know if a copy editor changed this on you, but it should be “USL Second Division side Charleston” Not anything big, but I thought I would point it out.

  61. Second City says:

    Speaking of “HAHAHA”…I see you never responded to the link I provided a few months back.

    Fyi, if anyone wants a good laugh – go look at InkedAG’s MySpace. It’ll make you laugh for weeks.

  62. galloway84 says:

    In 2008-2009, Hamlett had guys like Rolfe, Blanco, Soumare with the additions with Frankowski and etc with Busch was the goalkeeper for the Fire. In those two years, the Fire had high expectations to win the MLS championship and it was held back due to failures of Hamlett’s coaching style with a loaded team. When De Los Cobos took over all those players like Rolfe, Busch, Blanco and Soumare were no longer on the team and DLC is trying different things with the players he currently has on his roster. If De Los Cobos had the 2009 Chicago Fire roster, maybe we wouldn’t have this debate right now. Remember, Sigi Schimd took over in Columbus, it took him more than a year for Columbus to be a competitive team; same goes for Bruce Arena in LA and Hyndman in Dallas. Sure, he gets part of the blame for mixing and matching the lineups but labeling DLC 100 percent of the blame is way over the top.

  63. galloway84 says:

    Kevin, I agree with you 100 percent

  64. FireFireFire says:

    DLC brought in his guys to replace those guys and they flopped. He also cut Busch in fave of a disaster in Dykstra, so Busch wasn’t “gone already.” Nice revisionist history though. Are you DLC’s family or something? Maybe, just maybe, the Fire teams Hamlett had weren’t as good as you think they were. Maybe, he actually got them further than they would have gone under someone else. Too bad you’re too busy enjoying attractive attacking soccer by DLC.

    Also, Frankowski sucked. How many games did you need to see that he didn’t work in MLS? Soumare had a foot out the door before the season started and Rolfe is barely above average. Next, you’ll start saying Hamlett ruined Mapp.

    Do you perform comedy on a nightly basis?

  65. galloway84 says:

    FireFireFire, obviously you are the funny guy on this one. Commenting on me being a family member of DLC is very comical. Let’s not forget Hamlett had a run in with Soumare in the locker room and he had Blanco and Rolfe playing on the wrong spots in the lineup. There were 6 new coaches this year in the MLS and one is going to the playoffs (Hans Backe). DLC is getting used to adjusting the league; for the part, it takes time for players to adjust to a system. Even though Frankowski was a flop, he made a great point on Hamlett’s style of soccer and he was frank about how Hamlett handled him. Hamlett had problems with Tomasz, Bakay and at times Blanco. That proves you that Hamlett is a pain in the neck to deal with. Not only he wasn’t a good coach, he was stubborn with his in game managing.