Photo by ISI Photos
When the Chicago Fire’s search to replace departed head coach Juan Carlos Osorio more than a month ago, that search began with Denis Hamlett. After interviewing countless candidates and taking longer than any MLS coaching search in recent memory, the Fire’s search brought them right back to the same man who has been with the organization since it was founded, Denis Hamlett.
The Fire has chosen Hamlett as Osorio’s successor. Hamlett becomes the fourth head coach in team history, having served as an assistant for the three head coaches who came before him.
Hamlett beat out a long list of candidates that included Houston Dynamo head coach John Spencer and former Dallas Burn head coach Mike Jeffries. According to a report in the Houston Chronicle, Spencer states he was offered the position but turned it down because of a low contract offer.
Hamlett joined the Fire in 1998 as part of Bob Bradley’s coaching staff during the club’s inaugural season. During the next 10 years, Hamlett sat on the bench for the club’s MLS Cup title in 1998 and four U.S. Open titles (1998, 2000, 2003 and 2006).
A former standout defender for the Colorado Rapids, Hamlett retired before the 1997 season and joined the Fire soon after as an assistant coach.
Hamlett takes over a Chicago Fire team that reached the Eastern Conference final under Osorio. The Fire upset regular season Eastern Conference champions D.C. United in the first round of the playoffs before falling to the New England Revolution in the East final.
Bradley was the club’s first coach and guided the Fire to an MLS Cup title in the club’s first season (1998) and MLS Cup final appearance in 2000, along with two U.S. Open Cup titles (1998 and 2000). Dave Sarachan replaced Bradley after the 2002 season and spent four seasons in charge. Sarachan led Chicago to an MLS Cup final in his first season and guided the Fire to a pair of U.S. Open Cup titles in 2003 and 2006.
Osorio replaced Sarachan mid-way through the 2007 season and helped the Fire go from last place in the Eastern Conference to the Eastern Conference final. Osorio left the Fire to become the Red Bulls’ head coach.