There are things Raphael Wicky could have done better as the Fire’s coach, but he isn’t the only person at fault in another lost season. Sporting director Georg Heitz is taking his share of the blame for building a subpar roster, and owner Joe Mansueto is responsible for the time crunch that forced Heitz to hastily construct the team two years ago.
The players also contributed to Wicky’s downfall, which captain Francisco Calvo acknowledged after the Fire’s 3-1 loss Sunday at Toronto FC. Calvo said that it’s tough to lose a coach so close to the end of the season and that the locker room was sad about Wicky’s departure. Calvo also said the players wish Wicky the best, and Calvo called him a great person and coach.
Alas, the players’ feelings for Wicky weren’t enough.
“Of course we need to take responsibility for this, too,” said Calvo, who made his first appearance for the Fire since Aug. 21 after dealing with a right thigh issue. “At the end of the day, sometimes the coach goes first, then the players. It’s a hard job for them, but it’s how it is.
“[Soccer] is like that, and of course we [didn’t] want him to leave, but we need to take responsibility because our performance during the year wasn’t good enough.”
Three days after Wicky was dismissed, the Fire continued playing out the string on their season and surrendered the last three goals to Toronto FC after taking a first-half lead. Team legend Frank Klopas is leading the Fire while academy coach Ludovic Taillandier is serving as an assistant, along with goalkeeping coach Adin Brown.
Obviously, the Fire didn’t expect to be in this position, finishing a lost year with an interim coach. But for a host of reasons, Wicky was unable to get the points to stay in realistic playoff contention and save his job, which he officially lost Thursday.
“It’s always difficult when things change in the club,” goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina said. “Right now, we still have five games left, so I think the focus is going to be on trying to finish the season the best we can and continue to fight and push each and every single game and go out and give our all. The situation is difficult, but we’re doing our best to try and focus on the games.”
Klopas — who is not a candidate for the permanent position — also praised Wicky, citing his work ethic and care for his job and calling him a great human being. But the business of soccer is based on results, and Wicky’s record through almost two seasons wasn’t good enough.
Again, Wicky wasn’t the only reason the Fire are headed home before the playoffs for the fourth straight year. The entire soccer side of the franchise came up short.
“You always look at the coach, but there’s responsibility on everyone,” Klopas said. “It’s not just on one person.”
NOTES: Attacker Fabian Herbers was removed from the game because of a hamstring injury in the 21st minute and replaced by Ignacio Aliseda. Moments earlier, Herbers had the assist on Robert Beric’s 16th-minute goal that gave the Fire a 1-0 lead.
• The Fire also dismissed director of performance Ben Donachie. The team suffered a rash of injuries during training camp and the first half of the season.