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Frank Klopas, Jonathan Bornstein deserve roles with 2022 Fire

Whoever coaches the Fire next year should find a way to keep Klopas on the staff and preserve a roster spot for Bornstein.

Though he’s turning 37, the Fire should find a spot for Jonathan Bornstein next year.
AP Photos

Interim coach Frank Klopas isn’t a candidate for the full-time gig. Because of his age, veteran defender Jonathan Bornstein probably shouldn’t be a first-choice player next year.

Regardless, whoever coaches the 2022 Fire should find a role for both.

A club legend who has served the Fire in several posts, Klopas was put in a difficult spot when he was tabbed to replace the dismissed Raphael Wicky. With the season all but over and fans getting even more impatient with the on-field product, Klopas’ authentic passion for the franchise has shone through since taking over Sept. 30.

The season finale Sunday at the Columbus Crew will be Klopas’ last game in charge, even though he’s expected to remain as an assistant next year. After the 1-0 loss to New York City FC on Oct. 27, Klopas said he hopes he has a long future with the Fire in some capacity and feels like he has a lot to offer the franchise.

“I came in to help the club, and, you know, we don’t know what the next steps are for anyone,” Klopas said. “You know, I would do anything for the club, and I’ve said that. I stepped in as an assistant coach — well, I was asked, and then I did it because I felt that, OK, if the club needs me to do this in this role, I will do it.”

Bornstein’s roots with the Fire aren’t as deep, but he has shown a similar attitude since coming to Chicago. Acquired by Nelson Rodriguez and Veljko Paunovic in July 2019, Bornstein has been a reliable presence on the Fire’s back line.

Bornstein, who turns 37 Sunday and has made 38 appearances with the U.S. national team, also has served as captain in place of Francisco Calvo and provided a good example for his teammates with his fitness and dedication.

Without a contract for next year, Bornstein wants to come back to the Fire and plans to play in 2022, even if it’s not in Chicago.

“Physically, I can still go,” Bornstein said. “And so I would love for my career to keep going. I want to play as long as I can. In the past I’ve said I want to play until I’m 40. That’s still my goal. Be the new Tom Brady of soccer. That’s my goal.”

Next year, the Fire will have plenty of goals beyond just winning more games.

The 2022 season will be the Fire’s 25th. It also will be the third under owner Joe Mansueto as the franchise keeps trying to rebuild from its decline under Andrew Hauptman. Klopas and Bornstein have built relationships with the fan base, something that figures to be even more important in a milestone year.

It’s another reason for them to be kept around.

“I love the city; I love this team,” Bornstein said. “I think this team has so much potential, and I love the fans and would love to continue with this club for time to come.”