The SBI Questions: Ask Denis Hamlett

Denis Hamlett (mlsnet.com) 

The Chicago Fire will be going into the 2009 MLS season as one of the top contenders for the MLS Cup title, and if the Fire is to win its first league title since its first season in 1998, Denis Hamlett will be the one leading the way.

The Fire head coach has spent the 11 seasons with the club, and the past year as head coach, and he has compiled a loaded team that should not only challenge the Columbus Crew for the league title, but also be a top contender in the CONCACAF Champions League and U.S. Open Cup.

Hamlett's time in MLS didn't begin with the Fire, but actually as a standout defender for the Colorado Rapids in 1996 before a stroke cut short his playing career after just one MLS season.

Some 12 years later, Hamlett has watched the Fire win numerous trophies as one of the league's most successful clubs and will now be shooting for his first trophy since taking over the club as head coach last year.

Hamlett is the latest subject for The SBI Questions. a new feature on SBI that consists of readers submitting questions and SBI selecting the best of them before presenting them to the interview subject. So far Juan Carlos Osorio and Peter Vermes have taken part and we are lining up another MLS coach for the next installment.

Please submit your soccer-related questions for Hamlett in the comments section below. The answers will be posted next week.

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72 Responses to The SBI Questions: Ask Denis Hamlett

  1. Jimmy Bobo says:

    Question for Denis Hamlett: Please be honest. What was your role in the Lider Marmol saga while he was trying to join RBNY and follow Juan Carlos Osorio? Would you do anything differently in hindsight?

  2. Brant says:

    What player out there drives you nuts to gameplan against? Flip side of same question, who do you think you’ve figured out enough to be confident that you can bottle him up? And please no politicall-correct platitudes about “everyone’s tough and there are no sure things…”

  3. Turtle says:

    Thanks for giving us the opportunity…I would like to know what importance you put on the CONCACAF Champion’s League in realtion to the rest of the competitions the team will be playing in this year.

  4. Brant says:

    Second, separate question: what city would *you* like to see added in the MLS expansion? (in other words, where would you like to be able to go for a road game some time…?)

  5. Eric says:

    Will you play with two forwards? And Blanco is not a forward.

  6. Mark says:

    Dennis, where do you stand on the issues revolving around the internationalization of the league i.e. International calendar, promotion/relegation, salary caps, and a single table?

  7. Pablo Chicago says:

    Nyarko and Pappa are two players who showed promise in brief appearances last year. Will they have larger roles in the Fire’s 2009 season?

  8. Greg says:

    Were you suprised by Jon Busch’s play last year? Considering he was always No2 to Matt Pickens during his first season, did you really trust in the fact he would be a stand out keeper for the Fire? If so, why was he not played prior to last year?

  9. BellusLudas says:

    Please talk about the transition from player to coach. What was most difficult? What advantages do former professional players have in coaching pro’s? Think you are a great example of how this can be done successfully. All the best, LMW

  10. Adam says:

    Chris Rolfe has earned several caps from the USMNT playing as a forward. However, he often plays in the midfield on the Fire. Is this because the Fire have an abundance of talented forwards but Chris is versatile and should be on the field, or because you feel he is a better player in the midfield than up top?

  11. Rageman says:

    Bob Bradley left Chivas USA to coach the National team as it was viewed as a step-up from club coaching. If offered the head coach position for the Costa Rican national team, would you take it and a chance to coach at the World Cup or do you more prefer the daily contact with the players that you have at a club?

  12. Michael F. (SBI Mafia Original) says:

    Dennis,

    Geno’s or Giordano’s? (I’m a Giordano’s guy myself.)

  13. A. Ruiz says:

    Denis, do you have any regrets when it comes to Tomasc Frankowski. Since he was a relatively big signing by MLS standards, his season was dissapointing to say the least.
    Outside of the home opener vs NE, he never really shined for the Fire. Do you think theres anything you could have done differently, either tactically or in the locker room?

  14. Louis says:

    Should MLS raise the salary cap when the current CBA comes to an end? If so, by how much? Do you have a hard time attracting foreign talent due to the league’s tight financial restrictions?

  15. Joeking says:

    What is Blanco’s and McBride’s realtionship on the team like? They spent so long being rivals on the international level, I can’t imagine them being best buddies now.

  16. TCompton says:

    Denis,
    You’ve been involved with the league since the beginning. It seemed that when the League started out, players like Etcheverry, Valderrama, and Cienfuegos really drove the level of play. As these players grew older, the level of play in the league began to slip. To help counter this, the league decided to bring in Designated Players back into the fold to help elevate the level of play.

    Do you believe that the league really needs “foreign experience,” such as Blanco, to achieve a higher quality of play on the field?

  17. BFBS says:

    We heard Roy Hodgson’s perspective on the McBride loan to Fulham that didn’t come to pass. What is yours?

  18. jtd says:

    What are your thoughts on some of the actions of Fire supporters groups in response to the security/ownership issues last season? Have the problems been resolved? Have you played a role in any of the communication between club/fans/security?

  19. smorebs says:

    Denis, Thanks for doing this. Who do you think will make the playoffs this year?

  20. kebzach says:

    Any chance that you’ll grow a pair and not let Blanco run his legs into the ground by Memorial Day?

  21. Geoff says:

    Coach,

    What has it been like to manage Blanco? How’s his English coming along? Do you think him and McBride can tear up the league this coming season?

  22. Jackie says:

    Ives,

    Why is Altidore not being called for matches by Xerex?

    Is he injured?

    Jackie

  23. Joel says:

    If you were a defender in MLS today, taking into account your own strengths and weaknesses as a player, which Chicago Fire player would give you fits to play against? Why?

  24. Jeff says:

    I haven’t heard much about newly signed Stefan Dimitrov. What can you say about him and how does he figure into your plans? Thanks.

  25. maw says:

    Who’s the best defender / attacker in MLS that noone knows about?

  26. Jeff says:

    Coach,

    Can you give us an example of your standard sales pitch to an established overseas player on why they should come to the MLS?

  27. Jeff says:

    Ives,

    Just want to say you’re the man. Nobody’s coverage can touch yours right now with this feature. At least in my opinion.

  28. CapeCodFutbol says:

    Coach,

    SBI or Red Card?

  29. CapeCodFutbol says:

    @Jackie re: Jozy at Xerez — they have been winning and the coach has stated that he doesn’t want to change the (striking) lineup while they are winning. (and if you believe Marca / El Mundo Deportivo, players weren’t so happy that he came in on loan).

  30. c says:

    Turtle,

    The fire is not going to be part of the Concacaf champions league this year. We didn’t make the cut.

  31. Mike K. says:

    Coach,

    Seeing as how most European Leagues end in the middle of the MLS season, do you think at any point is would be finanially or operationally practical or possible to take a player on loan from one of these leagues to help fill injuries gaps and make a playoff run? Even some second division teams have players that would be contributors here in the MLS. But, is even their price tag to high?

  32. brett says:

    Denis- still waiting for En Feugo to post the answers from their Q & A’s :D….

    1) anyhow, with Blanco running on his last season as a Fire, who do you feel is best suited for taking the creative mid role next season?? or are you thinking we may need alter our line up??

    2) are you and Klopas already searching for the next Designated Player to grace the windy city??

  33. Acme says:

    Have the “Lone Striker” and “Defensive Bunker” strategies been laid to rest?

  34. Chris says:

    It seemed when Marco Pappa was on the field he was a dynamic and dangerous player. Same for him when he was on the field for Guatamala.

    Obviously, in practice, Pappa must not have done enough to displace Mapp. What areas does Pappa need to improve to replace Mapp as the first choice winger?

  35. DjMagnum says:

    Dennis,

    I know you back from you coaching the Wind days. I respect you and I think you are one of the best coaches in MLS.

    Can you PLEASE bench Mapp and play Pappa, and also play McBride and Rolfe up top together?

  36. Fuegofan says:

    Sr. Hamlett,

    What have been the biggest challenges and changes for you moving from an assistant coach to head coach?

    People often talk about styles of soccer–English kick-and-run, Latin ticky-tacky, etc. Do you aspire to mold the team into a particular style of soccer? Is the style here particularly different from what you remember in Costa Rica?

    Muchismas gracias por las respuestas.

  37. kevin says:

    The Fire dominated MLS to start the 2008 season, but then hit a real dip in form during the summer months and kind of fell out of the Supporter’s Shield race (this also coincided with a dip in Blanco’s production during the summer). Considering that the Fire have perhaps the deepest team in MLS, will you make a point of rotating your players more so that nobody gets burned out by June or July?

  38. Darkman says:

    Dear Dennis,

    I have several questions for you.

    We really didn’t feel the need to grab anyone major in the offseason due to the fact we have a very deep team in all areas(the midfield could use help). That being said you have Marco Pappa who in my opinion has the right approach to the game. Will you start him over Mapp?

    Are you willing to sub Blanco when you notice that his level of play has dropped during the game? He is not a spring chicken.

    Did you know that everytime you use the 1 foward formation a puppy is killed?

    Finally do you feel that this IS the year to prove to the club and fans that this is your team. I mean if the team fails to win any hardware will you resign?

  39. DMcLean says:

    I just want to second the How serious will he take champions league question.

  40. John Sweeny says:

    A lot of Fire fans felt put off by your treatment of Frankowski last year and your perceived favoritism of Andy Herron at critical times, despite the fact that Herron scored exactly ZERO league (not counting US Open Cup) goals. Will you apologize?

  41. PeteSweety says:

    Coach,

    Have you ever considered playing Thor in the D-Mid spot? He seems to play agressive defense, and can contribute on the offensive side (and still have the wheels to track back and defend).

    Pause at right back wouldn’t be bad either right?

    Can’t wait to see you guys on the field soon.

  42. Ryan says:

    With turf seemingly a fixture in the league now at least in Seattle and Toronto, what are your thoughts on the surface? Is it as bad as some make it out to be and would you ever be in favor of your club playing on it either in training or in matches.

  43. Fumar says:

    The Fire are NOT in the Champions League this year. They’re in SuperLiga though.

  44. Steve says:

    If Blanco is out, who is the best replacement (in the playmaker role) – Mapp, Pappa, or Rolfe?

    If all the starters are healthy, what’s your preferred formation?

    How badly are we going to beat New York this year?

  45. Fumar says:

    Denis,

    With one of the deepest teams in the league how will you get everyone the playing time they need?

    Will the Fire look for another creative playmaker once Blanco moves on? Riquelme will be 31 going on 32, seems to be the age of choice for big DPs coming to the MLS. Is a player of this caliber within the reach of a Fire DP?

  46. Speedball says:

    Mr. Hamlett:

    To be, or not to be–that is the question.

  47. DCsince96 says:

    I love that someone just told an MLS Head Coach where he should play HIS team’s best player- Love it!

  48. guillermo says:

    Given that the Chicago media coverage of the Fire is woefully inadequate how are you (as a key member of the organization) helping ensure that the your fan base is getting the information and coverage of the team that they deserve? According to some media members, the Fire has been less than forthcoming when asked to provide team related information and/or news.

    Oh, and I’d like to echo the numerous sentiments which kindly ask you to cease the unproductive (and ridiculous given the talent available to you) one forward formation. I too would also like to point out that Blanco is NOT a forward and has had his most productive periods for the team while playing in the “playmaker’s” role as a true #10.

  49. Sean says:

    Hey Denis,

    What do you think is the biggest problem with the league currently that can be most easily addressed?

  50. Scott A says:

    As a massive supporter of the US National team, I would like to see CONCACAF improve as a whole in order to give the USA better competition, more worldwide respect, and a better pool of players for MLS. Have you seen notable improvement in the soccer played in any CONCACAF countries, and if not, do you realistically see this occurring soon or are the economic barriers presently too large to move past the plateau?

  51. guillermo says:

    Seeing that the Chicago media is woefully inadequate when it comes to coverage of the Fire, what are you doing as a key member of the organization to ensure that your fan base receives the information and coverage that they deserve. Several members of the Chicago media have indicated that the Fire organization has been less then forthcoming when asked to provide team news and/or information.

  52. Sean says:

    Hey Denis,

    As a young black guy who grew up in this country playing soccer it is definitely an inspiration to see you and other minority coaches getting chances to be successful. What was the road to this point in your career like from a racial standpoint? I am not trying to bring up any divisions, but did you have to deal with any discrimination? Do you enjoy the fact that your appointment didn’t make headlines because of the color of your skin?

  53. This Guy says:

    2 questions:

    1. What role do you see Husidic playing this year in the squad? Position?

    2. What young player has improved the most since you first saw them?

  54. notabbott says:

    How do you balance the drive of older guys like McBride and Blanco with their age? On the one hand, I know why you’d want them in the game in the final minutes — either of them have the ability to change a game with a single play. On the other hand, they’re legs are not the freshest, and playing them a full ninety means keeping guys like Patrick Nyarko on the bench. How do you approach this problem?

  55. This Guy says:

    Some of these questions are ridiculous and border line insulting. I would love to see Marco Pappa start every game but I’m not seasoned enough to make calls that win matches or to criticize my beloved Fire’s Head Coach on the SBI forum.

  56. paul Chicago says:

    Dennis, fine first season so congratualtions on that. With Frankowski, Herron , and Marmol, the Fire has $400,000 wrapped up in non productive players. It seems we do not make use of our salary cap as well as other teams. Any plans to upgrade our foreign contingent and spend that chunk of money on a higher profile foreigner. Thanks.

  57. Werner says:

    What are your hopes for Marco Pappa this season? What does a central american player need to do to be succesful in MLS?

  58. DAVE says:

    Coach,

    Who are some of your closest friends from your playing days, and did any of them become coaches?

  59. Joe says:

    All time XI? Who was the best player that you played with and coached? What is your goal for the season this year?

  60. Felix says:

    What do you feel you learned in your first year as a manager? What surprised you the most?

  61. Freddy says:

    Hi Dennis,

    First I want to congratulate you on the great job you did with your first season as a head coach with the Fire. The Eastern final against Columbus was a hard hit to take, but I’m sure this year we will reach the promised land. My question is that since the Fire are one of the deepest teams in MLS with respect to the depth of talent, do you see a treble of the MLS Cup, US Open Cup and Superliga beyond the realm of possibility?

  62. Freddy says:

    One more question,

    Who is going to be the Fire’s captain this season? Since CJ is back to full health, will you be giving the armband back to him or is Blanco keeping it?

  63. Craig says:

    Denis,

    Do you ever feel bad about breaking Rob Ukrop’s jaw with what looked to be (I was there) a blatant elbow when you played with the Harrisburg Heat in the NPSL? Do you think you were the dirtiest player on that team or was it Kelly, McIntosh, or Tschantret? Thanks for your reply.

  64. Arriaga says:

    Two quick questions Coach:

    1.) Did you know it isn’t against MLS rules to play more than one forward at a time in a league match?

    2.) Can you please make Justin Mapp get a haircut? It isn’t 1998 anymore. Besides, with the quarter million dollars a year you’re wasting on him, he can afford a makeover.

    Thanks, and keep up the semi-adequate work.

  65. Steve says:

    Good luck this year coach:

    1) Considering the Fire are bringing back essentially the same roster as last year, what will be the areas of focus to take a step forward from being a competitor to a champion?

    2) Can we expect more of a rotation of players this year than last? Not just the obvious spots (Mapp, Pappa, Nyarko etc….) but with some of the young guys that showed romise last year like Banner and Woolard.

  66. Warren says:

    Hey Mr. Coach.

    Are you looking at any players outside of the U.S.? Any europe guys? I know you were looking at a couple last year, just wondering if theres any updates. Thanks!

  67. paul says:

    Dennis, when is Segares going to be rewarded for being one of the best fullbacks in the league. He is notably underpaid and I’m afraid we will lose him. why did we give RSL the rights to will jonson so cheaply and give too much to Toronto for Mc Bride?

  68. Tim K says:

    Coach,

    I have been a long time Fire Fan and season ticket holder since 1998. With a surplus of depth and talent, what are your thoughts in regards to the Fires attack in utilizing the talents of Blanco, McBride, Rolfe, and Nyarko?

    Also, With both McBride and Blanco on the field who are very talented, yet lack in pressure and speed, do you feel using the Speed of Rolfe and Nyarko is crucial in the starting line up? Thank you for answering our questions and GO FIRE!

    Tim K

  69. Jared says:

    Denis, you spent the first years of your coaching career working for Bob Bradley. What do you feel were the most important coaching lessons you learned from Bob?

  70. Bill says:

    Denis, I know your career was cut short because of an injury. How long did it take you to come to grips with not being able to play anymore and what player currently in MLS would you say has a playing style similar to yours?

    One more thing, in your one year in MLS who was the toughest guy to defend?

  71. Steve says:

    Since you’ve been with the Fire from day one you’re the best person to answer these:

    Most underrated player to ever play for the Fire?

    Second best Fire squad in team history (after 1998 of course)?

    Who would win a game between the ’98 Fire and 2009 Fire, by how much and why?

  72. Khan says:

    Coach,

    Can you tell us why Justin Mapp, a player who: is not in the National Team picture, does not have the stamina to play more than 70 minutes without walking for 1/3 of the time, can’t cross very well, doesn’t bother to defend, can’t get himself to move without the ball at his feet, and hasn’t had more than 8 assists in a year, YET is being paid a ridiculous $250k/year??

    Also, do you plan to continue the ridiculous practice of switching the left and right midfielders at the ~30th and 70th minute marks? You know, the tactic that was initiated by Dave Sarachan, despite it never having done anything to help the team, nor thow off the other team’s defense? You know, that mindless “thing” that everyone in MLS and their uncle already knows that you try every game?