TORONTO – This was one of the more difficult weeks for the club in what has been a tough 2021 season that now has included a coaching change.
On Thursday, after beating NYCFC, Chicago Fire FC fired manager Raphael Wicky just before he could finish his second year with the club. It came after the team missed the playoffs in 2020 then were out of contention for a spot most of this season.
Sporting director Georg Heitz was the first to say that there were many other problems besides Wicky with the club this year, but ultimately he was the first to go.
“Well, ultimately this is my responsibility. That’s clear. On the other hand, I also have to tell you, this is not a one-man show. We have processes,” said Heitz on Thursday when asked how much of the blame falls on him. “It’s not that I sit in my office and I say we sign this player or that player. All my coaches in my career always had a say when it came to signings. But, it is my responsibility in the end. I’ll also be accountable.”
But the change leaves the current club in an unusual position as they finish up the remaining games of the 2021 season, doing so with Frank Klopas as the interim coach.
The first outing featured a good start, including a goal from Robert Beric and a penalty kick save from goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina, but Toronto FC took over as play continued on their home pitch.
They got the equalizer before halftime then struck for two second half goals without answer from the Fire who lost 3-1 to fall to 7-16-6 on the season that now has just five matches remaining.
Klopas will lead the club in those matches, doing so after watching a respected co-worker leave the franchise.
“I mean, disappointed, obviously. I mean, how can you not be disappointed? First of all, Rapha and I worked together, almost, for two years. I know how hard the guy worked. I know how much he cared,” said Klopas of Wicky. “He’s a great human being, and I know that he never left any stone unturned to make sure that we tried to be always prepared. He worked tirelessly.
“At the end of the day, we know the business. You know, the results were not there, we all know. But you know, you always look at the coach but there’s responsibility on everyone. It’s not just on one person.”
Defender Francisco Calvo, who also praised Wicky as a person on Sunday following his departure, agreed that players bear a lot of the responsibility for the change.
“Yeah, of course we need to take responsibility for this, too. At the end of the day, sometimes the coach goes first, then the players. It’s a hard job for them. It’s hard work for them. It’s how it is,” said Calvo. “Football is like that, and of course we don’t want him to leave. But we need to take responsibility because our performance during the year wasn’t good enough.”