CHANGE IN CHICAGO.The Fire has dropped head coach Dave Sarachan, who'd bought himself some time by starting the season with three wins and a tie but had lost six of the last eight with a squad depleted by national-team call-ups and injuries.
A 1-0 home loss to Chivas USA June 9 in front of a sellout crowd probably sealed Sarachan's fate, though being overrun, 3-1, by D.C. United at RFK last weekend didn't help the situation. General manager John Guppy didn't make the official announcement until Wednesday and a search has been launched for a replacement, with assistant Denis Hamlett replacing Sarachan for the time being.
A change had been in the wind since AEG named Guppy to replace former GM Peter Wilt, who had hired Sarachan in 2002 when Bob Bradley left to coach the MetroStars.
The Fire reached MLS Cup 2003 in Sarachan's first season, losing 4-2 to San Jose, and despite a career record of 55-50-31 his days were numbered under Guppy unless he could return to MLS Cup. Chicago knocked off defending champion D.C. in the 2005 playoffs but didn't get out of the first round last year.
Aside from another former Fire assistant coach, Tom Soehn, Hamlett's name had been perhaps the most prominent one to be mentioned when head coaching vacancies arose in recent seasons.
A longtime veteran of the alphabet soup era, he played one MLS season in Colorado after five years in the APSL, CISL, and NPSL. He speaks fluent Spanish, having moved to the U.S. from Costa Rica when he was 10 years old, which will certainly come in handy when Cuauhtemoc Blanco arrives.
Discussions with Chilean striker Marcelo Salas have cooled off, perhaps because at least one and as many as two Mexican teams have reportedly offered him salaries about double what the Fire has proposed.
There were also clubs in Chile interested in his services. He would not have been a designated player and would have made less than the league maximum of $350,000. The Fire has allocation money to play with; it has yet to spend the allocation it received when Damani Ralph was sold to Russian club FK Rubin Kazan in 2005.
CHANGE AFOOT? The dismissal of Sarachan may not be the only change in the Eastern Conference coaching ranks. One assistant coach, who cannot be named, is so disgruntled with his situation that he's just about ready to leave the team. That is all that can be reported at this time.
BECKS' QUESTION.These are nervous times in MLS headquarters. The ankle injury to David Beckham is endangering his scheduled debut for the Galaxy July 21 against Chelsea at Home Depot Center.
Beckham is scheduled to attend the MLS All-Star Game July 19 in Commerce City, Colo., but only to make appearances, not to play. He is being allowed to rest the injury and because he is still under contract to Real, the club is responsible for his medical situation.