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Denis Hamlet Under Pressure

6a00e54ef2975b88330112796445e528a4 500wi 300x185 Denis Hamlet Under Pressure

In the wake of the Fire blowing points at home again this weekend, assessing Denis Hamlet is a timely subject. The 2-2 draw at Toyota Park with the Crew, gives Columbus the inside track on winning its second consecutive Supporters Shield and the Eastern Conference.

Denis Hamlet was always a second choice hire. The longtime assistant that was only chosen by the Fire after more attractive candidates including Dynamo assistant John Spencer had turned down the job. Hamlet who has been in the Fire organization since the inception of the franchise had played with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the APSL (now USL-1) and Colorado Rapids.

When you promote a longtime assistant, the transition is usually smooth, but the long term affects often times are the problem. Hamlet did well by bringing Wilman Conde back into the fold after the Colombian defender had openly sulked about Juan Carlos Osorio’s move to New Jersey, looking to be re-united with him.

The Fire has won the second most trophies of any active MLS franchise while always marinating excellent squad depth. Peter Wilt, the team’s GM from 1998 to 2005 was able to asses draft talent well and sign quality internationals to enhance his squad. While Chicago’s talent level may have dropped off somewhat since those early days, the team still is deeper than most in MLS and more complete than perhaps anyone in the league.

This has allowed Hamlet to be aggressive on the road. The Fire in each of the last two seasons have not setup for a draw like so many MLS teams and coaches do away from home. But at the same time, Chicago has fallen into the trap of the negative tactics from the opposition at Toyota Park, leaving with far too many draws and even in some cases, a home loss.

The recent bust up with Bakary Soumare, as well as Chris Rolfe’s decision to sign abroad have many questioning Hamlet’s command over the dressing room. Transitioning from a longtime assistant to top man is never easy, especially when you have been in an organization for so long. We’ve seen former loyal assistants fall down on the job in the NFL (Richie Pettibone with the Redskins comes to mind instantly), College Football  ( Ron Zook, anyone, or how about Gary Gibbs?) or even English Football (Chris Hutchings, Sammy Lee, etc) .

Hamlet has fared better than most of the examples I have listed. But the question is now, can he transition from managing a team that flourished under Dave Sarachan and Juan Carlos Osorio, to putting his own mark on the side? Dropping points at home and struggling to make an impact in the playoffs doesn’t help, nor does the possibility of three consecutive trophy-less seasons. After all, the Fire won 6 trophies in its first nine seasons of existence, so the standard of excellence established at Toyota Park isn’t for example like the standard of the Metrostars/Red Bulls.

Denis Hamlet knows how important winning is for the Chicago Fire, and probably realizes he best turn this thing around soon. No offense to any of our readers, but Chicago is not Columbus or Salt Lake City. If the Fire want to find a good manager, it is likely they will this time around.

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About Kartik Krishnaiyer

A lifelong lover of soccer, the beautiful game, he served from January 2010 until May 2013 as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the North American Soccer League (NASL). Raised on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL, Krishnaiyer previously hosted the American Soccer Show on the Champions Soccer Radio Network, the Major League Soccer Talk podcast and the EPL Talk Podcast. His soccer writing has been featured by several media outlets including The Guardian and The Telegraph. He is the author of the book Blue With Envy about Manchester City FC.
View all posts by Kartik Krishnaiyer →

10 Responses to Denis Hamlet Under Pressure

  1. JMB321 says:

    Hamlett should be under pressure. With the amount of talent the Fire have it is very frustrating how often they blow leads. We have been to 8 home games this season at Toyota Park and 4 of those games they were leading. If it happens once or twice you can blame the refs, lack of focus, missing pieces, etc.. But an ongoing problem has to be laid at the feet of the coach. I anticipate that if the Fire lose this weekend to Toronto with a poor overall showing or a blown lead, Hamlett is gone vis-a-vis Siggy Schmid at LA a few years back. The new ownership should not be tolerant of poor results at home which is impacting attendance negatively this year.

  2. Julius says:

    I believe the Fire are third in the overall trophy count just behind LA Galaxy (7) and far far behind DC United (12).

    • Kartik says:

      Forgot about LA’s supporters shields. The 1998 was awarded however after the fact, (the actual supporters shield as ?I recall began in 2000 with KC) so you could technically argue they both have six. But point well taken.

  3. mikeinTN says:

    I am no Chicago Fan…but they are probably a lock for the playoffs. Its hard justifying letting a coach go given their current position. You could wind up with something worse. By the way…Juan Carlos Osorio would probably be happy to come back at the moment!

  4. Joe Ginto says:

    I wouldn’t put the blame on Rolfe leaving on Hamlet at all. I’m not necessarily a fan of his, FWIW (Hamlet, that is). I think he definitely has his shortcomings.
    The Soumare deal was just waiting to blow. Bakary was always going to leave. Despite all the niceties he put out there about being ecstatic with being in Chicago and blahblahblah, those close to him knew he was just itching to jump to France at the first chance. I’m not sure the Fire are any worse off without him. He’s a talent but he’s very raw and prone to the rash tackle. I think it’s a shame they didn’t get more for him. The backline hasn’t looked any worse w/out Baky and you could argue Denis’ handling of the situation helped to bring the boys together as Baky’s head was getting real big.

    Re: Rolfe…The Fire mgmt is to blame to here. Chris and his agent claim they’ve been trying to work out a deal with the Fire for two years now and Chris finally jumped because he was tired of the front office’s stall tactics. I don’t think Hamlet had any role there.

    The words “Sarachan” and “flourish” don’t belong in the same paragraph, much less the same sentence. He took any creativity the Fire had and smashed it into little bits.

    Does Hamlet deserve to be under fire? Absolutely, he does. I just don’t think he really is. I don’t believe the FO knows what the hell they’re doing. The Fire stand at a precipice right now. With the imminent departure of Rolfe, the likely sale/transfer of Justin Mapp, McBride and Blanco’s status up in the air, the squad has one chance to get this right and get some hardware before this current roster is pulled apart. In that sense, you could argue they’re all under pressure. Nice piece, Kartik. Glad to see some ink about my Fire.

  5. Paulie says:

    If Denis Hamlet fails to win any trophies this year, even if they make the playoffs, he needs to be carted off.

    You are right, Chicago is one of the premiere clubs in MLS. Sending a rookie squad to Charlotte was a bonehead move in the first round of the US Open cup, and the most talented lethargic squad is a sign that this coach is way over matched.

    Please! Give us a good coach.

  6. soccer goals says:

    You make a good point. If he fails in the playoffs, he might not return next season.

  7. eplnfl says:

    Kartik, thanks for putting the light on what is going on in Bridgeview.

    For the Fire this year a playoff appearance just won’t do , to save his job Hamlet needs an appearance in the finals, nothing less. The Fire where a team built to win this year and need a run to the finals.

    Most of us who are Fire fans knew that some of the more talented role players behind Blanco and McBride would be moving on. It is just difficult to have them move on during the season. At least Chris Rolfe has class enough to leave at seasons end. Good luck Chris you always did us proud.

    It now appears that Blanco and McBride are likely to return next year. A new supporting cast will need to be assembled. Yes, I would feel better if Peter Wilt was in charge of getting the supporting cast, but despite the misgivings many of us have about the current FO they can still claim nothing they have done has hurt the team. Blanco being away with his national team much of the summer was a negative factor as well as McBride’s injury and other injuries to the back line.

    On a positive note the Fire has a higher profile in town then ever before, an announced crowd of over 16,000 people where on hand on Sunday during a Chicago Bears home game. An outstanding number of people given that the City of Chicago stops during a Bears game. The Fire fans imho are some of the most loyal if not the most loyal in MLS.

    So is a coaching change likely after the season. You would have to say yes and I would have to support it. What is interesting to think about is if Chicago will have a high profile coach named and may it maybe a coach that appeals to the great ethnic fan base of the Fire?

    Lastly, I’m planning on attending the TFC game Saturday anyone else going?

  8. David says:

    I also think Hamlet is in a bit of trouble. Pauly said it well: “the most talented lethargic squad is a sign that this coach is way over matched.”
    The Fire just seem too talented and too deep not to be on top of the table.
    I think we’ll get 3 points this Saturday, just hope it doesn’t rain cats and dogs on us!

  9. Nick Thomas says:

    I think the main point here is that Hamlett does not have his team with him. He loses Bakary Soumare and Chris Rolfe in the space of a few months? Two of the most talented players on the team? Whatever people may say about Soumare itching to go to France, the fact is that he loved playing for the fans in Chicago. I saw and talked to him at the Rapids game in Chicago last month when he turned up to say goodbye to his loyal fans at the tailgate. I also talked to Rolfe and Lowry and they were not happy with the state of play at the club. It may be a combination of Hamlet and the FO but not all is right in Chicago when so many good players are unhappy.

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