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Sarachan Out

Chicago's loss to D.C. United last Saturday turned out to be the Fire's final match under their good-guy coach, Dave Sarachan. The club has let him go after four-plus seasons, a 55-50-31 regular season record, two Open Cup titles and one trip to MLS Cup, and replaced him on an interim basis with longtime assistant Denis Hamlett (George Mason U.).

Sarachan was on the hot seat at the start of the season, but could he really be faulted for the rash of injuries and national team call-ups? On Saturday at RFK, the Fire (4-6-2) was without six regulars and barely mounted a resistance against the league's hottest team. I am not able to gauge team morale and chemistry, and perhaps those were major factors in this decision. But the Fire's problems run deeper than the coach, in my opinion, and perhaps change is needed in the front office, which has fallen short with its personnel moves, selling tickets at a new stadium and attracting consistent media attention.

And just to stir things up.....

Paging Mr. Nowak, there's an MLS opening in your favorite city! (Very unlikely, given Piotr's job under Bradley and his likely Olympic head coaching position.)

Just got off the phone with Sarachan. He said he was called into John Guppy's office at 9:30 this morning and told of the decision. "It was just business as usual with my cup of coffee getting ready to start the day," he said. "I'm in a state of shock. This is a tough business and if a decision to make a change was purely the result of our performances the last couple weeks, I would just say it's difficult to win under these circumstances. But again, this is the business we are in."

By Steve Goff  |  June 20, 2007; 11:55 AM ET
Categories:  MLS  
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Next: Tell Us How You Really Feel, Mr. Shearer


I'd have to agree. Injuries and call-ups don't seem to be his fault.

Well, hopefully it gets the team playing better.

...and thanks, as always, for all the MLS soccer scoops! :)

Posted by: P | June 20, 2007 12:12 PM | Report abuse

BRIDGEVIEW, IL - Chicago Fire Soccer has announced that Dave Sarachan has been relieved of his head coaching duties, effective immediately. Denis Hamlett, an assistant coach for the Fire for 10 seasons, will take over as interim head coach as a search begins for Sarachan's replacement. Hamlett will make his debut on the Fire bench Friday night in an international friendly against MKS Cracovia of Poland at TOYOTA PARK (8:00 p.m. CT).

"We are appreciative of everything Dave has done for this organization - he has been a true professional in every sense of the word," said Fire President/CEO John Guppy. "At the same time, we realize that the team is not headed in the direction we would like and felt a change was necessary."

The Fire are winless in seven of their last eight games (1-6-1), having dropped from first place to fifth in the Eastern Conference of Major League Soccer (MLS).

Sarachan (pronounced SARA-kin) owns a career record of 55-50-31 (.518) in five seasons, and among MLS coaches, ranks 10th in all-time in winning percentage (10 wins minimum) and 12th in overall wins. Under Sarachan's direction, the Fire captured two Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup titles (2003, 2006) and advanced to postseason play three times (5-3-1/.611) in the four years. Sarachan was named MLS Coach of the Year in 2003 after leading the Fire to the league's best record and a Supporters Shield title.

John Guppy will address media at a 12:30 p.m. CT news conference today at TOYOTA PARK.

Select players will be available for interviews following practice at the TOYOTA PARK practice field, starting around at 1:00 p.m.

CHICAGO FIRE - Head Coach Dave Sarachan fired; Denis Hamlett named interim head coach.

Posted by: P | June 20, 2007 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Goff,

Its pretty obvious to me that you havent watched enough Fire games the last few years. Uninspired play and getting throttled by teams even when we didn't players missing.

Stop making excuses for your buddy (You kn ow what I mean). We don't care as much about the ancillary stuff if the team was winning and playing well.

Posted by: Steve DM | June 20, 2007 12:17 PM | Report abuse

I have no basis for saying this, but that's what the interwebs are for! I say AEG should do its damndest to bring back Peter Wilt (since I haven't heard much from his expansion effort) and hire Nowak. That would have an immediate and long-term impact on the Fire, a team that deserves more than it has gotten over the past few years.

Posted by: Logan Circle | June 20, 2007 12:17 PM | Report abuse

My feeling as a long-time Fire fan is that the team has play uninspired ball 90% of the time over the past 2-3 years. I've been waiting for this for a long time.

The current rash of injuries/callups isn't his fault but I still think it was time to move on.

Posted by: Chris | June 20, 2007 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Of course, a few of the inspired games over the past few years were against DC United.

Posted by: Chris | June 20, 2007 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Stop making excuses for your buddy (You kn ow what I mean).


No, actually, I don't know what you mean.

Posted by: Goff | June 20, 2007 12:27 PM | Report abuse

This isn't just about NOW. Sure, he has some issues beyond his control at the moment... but this was a long time coming.

The Fire so rarely play with any passion these days!

Look at these comments from Justin Mapp from Luis Arroyave's blog:

"Hopefully we can snap out of this... We're trying to put a positive spin on it... It is a long season. We'd like to think we can turn it around."

This isn't passion! Droopy the cartoon dog has more passion than this! Dave had the players thinking like him. We don't need lucky bounces and positive spin. We need FIRE!

Maybe now we'll get some.

Posted by: Pocket Rebel | June 20, 2007 12:27 PM | Report abuse

maybe Chicago can actually draw some fans now if they can bring in a coach that doesn't bunker every game. First move for the new coach, waive Chris Armas.

Posted by: John | June 20, 2007 12:31 PM | Report abuse

"But the Fire's problems run deeper than the coach, in my opinion, and perhaps change is needed in the front office, which has fallen short with its personnel moves, selling tickets at a new stadium and attracting consistent media attention."

I thought the same about their front office when their numpty of a GM spouted crap to the media about them trying to sign Zidane.

Thanks as always for the breaking news Steven.

Posted by: Kev | June 20, 2007 12:32 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to see Nowak coach Blanco, even just for a little bit, purely for entertainment purposes.

Posted by: Dan | June 20, 2007 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Blanco did this!

Posted by: RK | June 20, 2007 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Lessee, Guppy left Metro in such a state of massive organ failure that they had to re-brand after such inspired campaigns like "MetroPlayoffFever". Fire fans shouldn't expect anything good to come from this until Guppy goes four fins up.

Posted by: griffin1108 | June 20, 2007 12:45 PM | Report abuse

What does AEG see in Guppy? He brings nothing to the table. He squandered a brilliant opportunity with Bridgeview's opening, and will ruin the coaching career of whoever replaces Sarachan.

Posted by: Logan Circle | June 20, 2007 12:50 PM | Report abuse

This season's losing streak was 4 years in the making. 2004-2007 were marked with poor game planning, poor tactical adjustments, poor personnel decisions, poor draft selections, a tendency to rely on high salary veterans regardless of injury history or current form. The injuries and call ups only served to add the breeze that was necessary to tumble the house of cards.

If MLS were a Single Table league (and I'm Glad it's not, Denis would have been the interim coach in 2004, not 2007.

While I'm not going to piss on his grave, I am very happy he's gone and now the Fire can move forward, because we were only going to sink further with him.

Posted by: Mike Segroves | June 20, 2007 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Mighty curious as to what Blanco's opinion is to the change at the helm.

Posted by: Mickey | June 20, 2007 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Pocket Rebel writes: "The Fire so rarely play with any passion these days! ... This isn't passion! Droopy the cartoon dog has more passion than this"

I thought we banned talking about "passion" a few months ago!?! Here we go again...

Posted by: LeesburgSoccerFan | June 20, 2007 1:04 PM | Report abuse

There have been morale and chemistry problems. If memory serves me right, I believe that's what made Jesse Marsch leave the team and I don't think that's the only case.

Posted by: Nick | June 20, 2007 1:07 PM | Report abuse

This is an atrocious roster and the coach and GM are the only ones to blame for having almost no quality on the team. As others have posted, the Fire have played poor, boring soccer the last few years, so this was a long time in the making. Blanco will bring fans and maybe even score some important goals, but this roster can't be overhauled in one season. It's gonna take years of good drafting--which Chicago doesn't seem to have a very good track record in...

Posted by: Nick | June 20, 2007 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Paging Peter Wilt! We made a terrible mistake in letting you go. Please come back and rescue this once proud fanchise (even if they did win MLS Cup on a bogus call) Goff - you know what I mean. ;)

That was funny. I'm sure Goff and Sarachan are golf buddies from WAAAAAAY back. ;)

Posted by: David | June 20, 2007 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Steve DM ---> I think part of the implied point is why fire Sarachan NOW. If you have that little faith in the coach why not pull the trigger last fall after the season is over and give yourself time to find a proper coach and give that coach a chance to change the team a bit better? By dragging their feet Guppy & company have done nothing more than put themselves in a spot where they have to panic because it's going to be hard for any coach to get great results with that squad. And if they don't start getting more results soon they're going to be out of play off contention. That is, at this point the Fire have probably pissed the season away simply because the suits in the FO didn't have the balls to pull the trigger on a coach they didn't have very much confidence in. Why leave Guppy & company out of the picture when blaming people for where that team is today?

Posted by: Allen | June 20, 2007 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Interestingly enough, I heard about this on Sportstalk 980, of all places. Of course the announcer butchered his name but, at least they thought enough of it to mention it in their 20 minutes sports updates.
Now if we could just get a routine discussion of United and their upcoming games.....

Posted by: marksman | June 20, 2007 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Dave S. is yet another casualty of John Guppy.

Fire Playoff Fever, anyone?

Posted by: Kim | June 20, 2007 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Fire fans have to be shaking their head at this point. Even from an outsider's perspective, it was clear that with injuries and national team duty, the Fire were lacking a big part of their core team. No team can play well that way. So to fire the coach and say its because the team was going in the wrong direction is fine, but firing the coach won't magically cause players to heal or the USMNT to release players. I would agree with those that see this as a symptom of a larger problem in the front office.

Posted by: Dan | June 20, 2007 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Goodbye Fire, hello Full Throttle Chicago! Bring on the energy drinks!

Posted by: Logan Circle | June 20, 2007 1:39 PM | Report abuse

"It was just business as usual with my cup of coffee getting ready to start the day [at 9:30am]" - Dave Sarachan, before being fired

1. Your team is losing, and it's "business as usual"?

2. Your the coach of a raadically underperforming professional soccer team, and you skate in to the office at NINE THIRTY?


Posted by: Ron | June 20, 2007 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Guppy is a schmuck and the Fire should run. Run fast. Their decline will not end until Guppy is replace. He's just a wannabe.

Posted by: player | June 20, 2007 2:06 PM | Report abuse

1. Your team is losing, and it's "business as usual"?

2. Your the coach of a raadically underperforming professional soccer team, and you skate in to the office at NINE THIRTY?


Business as usual means, he came to work like he usually does.

9:30 is presumably the time when the players/coaches arrive for training. This is the silly world of pro sports, not a law firm. :-)

Posted by: Goff | June 20, 2007 2:20 PM | Report abuse

I recall Fire fans being very unhappy with Guppy in the first place, due to the miserable heap he left the metrostars in.

So, can I guess that the new coach will maybe want fewer defenders playing midfield? And will that lead to defenders being traded? What I'm getting at is that we in DC need a center back and could find one cheaply in a fire sale.

Pun intentional.

Posted by: Chest Rockwell | June 20, 2007 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Stop bad mouthing my family.

Posted by: Steve Guppy | June 20, 2007 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Marksman, maybe 980s coverage of the Fire firing means that we might be seeing the days more DC United coverage on the station?

Of course, those of us who read here on the Insider get all the DC United discussion, news, and analysis that we need. Thank you

Posted by: G-Unit | June 20, 2007 2:28 PM | Report abuse

If the MLS is ever going to compete on a quality level with the EPL, LaLiga, et al., it cannot accept coaches with years of 500. seasons. Are you listening Sigi?

Posted by: crowbar | June 20, 2007 2:35 PM | Report abuse

"I'd like to see Nowak coach Blanco, even just for a little bit, purely for entertainment purposes."

- "priceless" (c) :)

Posted by: AK | June 20, 2007 2:47 PM | Report abuse

LeesburgSoccerFan writes: "I thought we banned talking about "passion" a few months ago!?! Here we go again..."

Yesterday someone else asked the blog whether they thought that an MLS squad could avoid relegation in the EPL and the same "we've discussed this topic before" commentary ensued.

I'm relatively new to this blog and have noticed this phenomenon lately where people's comments are disparaged (disparaged is probably the wrong word, but I can't come up with a better one right now) because the long-time readers of the blog have discussed the topic before... Is this blog closed to new readers?

Posted by: GomitoRules | June 20, 2007 2:55 PM | Report abuse

All visitors and topics are welcome! (well, most visitors and most topics)

Posted by: Goff | June 20, 2007 3:02 PM | Report abuse

"Is this blog closed to new readers?"

We discussed that two weeks ago. Get Lost :-)

I assume that we get a some young people with a thirst for the game. So there is no such thing as a stupid question (exceptions include: stadium at Poplar Point, single entity ownership, promotion/relegation, player ratings, and salary cap exemptions for NY and LA).

Hey Steve, how about a Soccer Insider FAQ. You're not doing anything else this weekend, right?

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | June 20, 2007 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Gomito, there was no commentary -- it was ONE post to provide context:

"We had this argument, in a way, months ago -- and none of us could even put MLS as a top 10 league."

Posted by: RK | June 20, 2007 3:36 PM | Report abuse

It is time for someone new at the helm of the Fire. I wish Dave all the luck in the world and hope he lands on his feet. The next move the Fire organization needs to take is to relieve John Guppy of his duties. Quickly followed by signing a talented right midfielder, then establishing some kind of decent marketing program, then getting the concessions in TP straightened out. The rest will fall into place.

Posted by: Ben | June 20, 2007 3:44 PM | Report abuse

GomitoRules: First of all welcome to the blog. Secondly, it was meant as a joke. The last time we discussed "passion" was when DCU was in their early season slump and half the board was screaming for Soehn's head. Soehn made a statement that the team lacked "passion", and we went on ad nauseum about "passion" for a day or two until DCU started winning and everyone fell back in love with Soehn.

Nobody expects newcomers to know all the previous discussions, but please understand that some comments will refer to discussions that have already occurred. That is how community is fostered in the blogosphere.

Posted by: LeesburgSoccerFan | June 20, 2007 3:47 PM | Report abuse

I270 you forgot salary cap as another exception (not because it's banned, but because nobody understands how it works)

Posted by: LeesburgSoccerFan | June 20, 2007 3:51 PM | Report abuse

As I said on this week's podcast, you can't blame the injuries on Sarachan. But a coach has to prepare all of his players for MLS play, not just his starting XI. The inability of their bench to be in a position to step up, as evidenced last Saturday, reflects badly on Sarachan's draft choices and/or his ability to develop talent.

Posted by: Dave Lifton | June 20, 2007 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Right Leesburg. Maybe there should be a Frequent Unanswerable Questions page. But .com may balk at the acronym.

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | June 20, 2007 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of Guppy's... remember Steve Guppy that played a few matches for United (no relation to the Fire GM John Guppy)? Here's some great soccer trivia... Not only has Steve Guppy now played in the first club match at the new Wembley, he's the first player to win medals in both incarnations of the stadium. His current club, Stevenage Borough, won the FA Trophy earlier this spring. He won the FA Trophy with Wycombe at the Old Wembley.

Wikipedia... I love you!

Posted by: Kev | June 20, 2007 4:19 PM | Report abuse

What is the FA Trophy and how does it differ from the FA Cup? Or the FA Participation Ribbon?

Posted by: Jacknut | June 20, 2007 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Steve and John Guppy are cousins, as I recall.

Good stuff on the Guppy/Wembley angle!

Posted by: Goff | June 20, 2007 5:03 PM | Report abuse

I once had a puppy named Guppy. Then he swam away...

Jeez, I gotta stop looking for Goff's 3 am posts and get some sleep.

Posted by: Joe Doc | June 20, 2007 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Stay away from the fish, revolution is near!

Posted by: Mr. Minnow | June 20, 2007 8:00 PM | Report abuse

ummm it should have been Sarachan letting Guppy go and bringing back Wilt.

Goff, if Milwaukee doesn't get their MLS team any chance of Wilt coming back?

Posted by: Southeasterner | June 20, 2007 8:32 PM | Report abuse

How either Guppy got their respective job in MLS is beyond me.

The difference between DC United and the rest of the league? DC cut their losses fast.

Posted by: Todd H. | June 20, 2007 9:02 PM | Report abuse

PUH-LEASSSE! Sarachan has been woefully uninspiring the last couple of years. A few Open Cups are great (unfortunately we seem to be one of the only teams to take the competition seriously so even that is a bit tainted)
Call ups and injuries happened to pretty much EVERYONE. New England got hammered by them and they are performing pretty well I might say.
The FO is a joke and Guppy should be next. He does NOTHING to raise awareness of the team and the middling attendance shows that. String both of these SOB's up!
I am just now hoping Jesse Marsch retires with immediate effect and becomes coach.

Posted by: papa bear | June 20, 2007 9:04 PM | Report abuse

You guys who are lamenting Sarachan's firing really need to get a clue. Who was it that has wasted time and money on [snicker] prizes like Reiter, Caballero, and now Bedrossian?

Who was the clown that decided that this team doesn't need a capable RMF?

Who hasn't been able to get Mapp to play with any sort of sense of urgency?

Look: Dave Sarachan is a nice guy, and a hard worker. But he was also BAD AT HIS JOB. But don't worry about him. If clowns like Rongen and Andrulis can get jobs after they wet the bed in MLS, so can Dave Sarachan.

Any fan of ANY TEAM in MLS should be glad that someone as incompetent as Dave Sarachan is gone. He was an embarrasment to ALL fans of this league, not just Chicagoans.

Posted by: Khan | June 20, 2007 9:59 PM | Report abuse

Dave's firing is good for the simple reason that the amount of talent that has been brought in to replace the amount of talent leaving has been a large negative number.

There has also been no plan for a loss of any of the starting 11. After Barrett and Rolfe, who's left as forward? Bedrossian and Carr? One of them also takes up an SI slot while sitting injured on the bench as well. This while Toronto seemingly put together what seems to be a winning team partway through the season after a debacle of a draft.

The immense glut of left sided mids has also been a longtime issue. Mapp, Gutierrez, Guerrero, we're well stocked on the left with nobody dependable on the right and it's been that way for years. Why continue to fill one position when another is lacking is something that has bothered many.

That said, there's a lot to be said for Armas' comment about renewing the contract and cutting him loose after 12 games. Guppy has a lot to answer for if there's not a replacement quick. There's no point getting rid of the head of the team if you can't bring someone else in very quickly. I have a lot of faith in Hamlett, but this can go bad quickly for him as well.

Posted by: McCrum | June 20, 2007 10:36 PM | Report abuse

Seems like a lot of non-Fire fans firmly on the outside (Goff included) pontificating on the recent "success" or lack thereof of the club. Especially playing up Guppy/Wilt related conspiracy theories.

Sarachan was hired by Wilt and retained by Guppy. There's no conspiracy to destroy the club. Guppy didn't even have administrative control at Metrostars, so that blows that angle.

Guppy is a prick, but stop trying to put pieces together where they don't go. Sarachan was the problem. He and he alone chased off players from Razov to Marsch and more with his locker room style and alliance with Armas at the expense of other established players.

Chicago needed a change, desperately and a rejuvanation. Hopefully, with a good hire, this will bring it.

Posted by: Karavan | June 22, 2007 4:28 PM | Report abuse

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