In a move that seemed inevitable for months, the Chicago Fire has parted ways with head coach Denis Hamlett and has chosen not to re-sign him as head coach. Hamlett's contract expires at the end of the calendar year.
Hamlett took over as Fire head coach before the 2008 season, replacing Juan Carlos Osorio. In two seasons as head coach, Hamlett posted a 24-17-19 regular season record and guided the Fire to two straight Eastern Conference finals. The Fire lost to the eventual MLS Cup champions in both cases.
Hamlett had been a part of the Fire's coaching staff since the club's start in 1998, serving as an assistant coach for Bob Bradley, Dave Sarachan and Osorio before becoming head coach in 2008.
Sources have told SBI for some time that Chicago's ownership wasn't sold on Hamlett and this was always going to be his last season in charge unless the Fire won a title. Chicago endured key injuries throughout the 2009 season but still managed to reach the SuperLiga Final and Eastern Conference Final (losing both on penalty kicks). Ultimately, the decision was made by Fire owner Andrew Hauptman and sporting director Javier Leon to move the team in a different direction.
Where will Chicago turn next? There are plenty of candidates available, with no real front-runner at the moment. The Fire had been interested in Preki, but he has since taken over at Toronto FC. Long-time Chicago Fire standout Chris Armas, former D.C. United head coach Tom Soehn, former Chivas USA, LA and Bayern Munich assistant Martin Vasquez, former KC head coach Curt Onalfo and current Red Bulls interim head coach Richie Williams should all be in the mix. Houston assistant John Spencer could also be in the mix after having turned down an approach from the Fire before Chicago hired Hamlett.
What is the SBI take on this move? I think letting Hamlett go is a mistake, but it has been clear for some time that Fire ownership didn't like Hamlett and wanted a fresh start with a new coach. With the club likely to endure a rebuilding season in 2010, the Fire had better find the right coach or next season could be a flop. There are some good available candidates out there, but none with better credentials over the past two years than Hamlett.
What do you think of this move? Surprised to see Hamlett let go? Think it was the right move? Who would you like to see take over?
Share your thoughts below.