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The SBI Questions: Ask Denis Hamlett

Denis Hamlett ( 

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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  1. 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?

  2. 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?

  3. 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?

  4. 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?

  5. 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

  6. 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?

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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?

  12. 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?

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

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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?

  17. 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?

  18. 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?

  19. 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.


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