Quote Sheet | Klopas and Haile-Selassie Discuss Chicago Fire FC's Match against Atlanta United FC


Atlanta, Ga. (March 31, 2024) – Chicago Fire FC (1-3-2, 5 points) fell 3-0 on the road against Atlanta United FC (3-2-0, 9 points) on Sunday afternoon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Following the match, Head Coach Frank Klopas and Winger Maren Haile-Selassie spoke with the media.

Chicago Fire FC Head Coach Frank Klopas

On what he thinks made it so difficult for the team to get chances against Atlanta United…

“Well, I mean, obviously look, it all starts from keeping a clean sheet and timely goals. I thought the first half was more difficult for us. I think that in building up our play, and doing the things that we've talked about, but then, I think, as a team, when you look at the moments that we give up goals, puts us in really difficult situations. Obviously 44th minute out of nowhere, and you know, it's stuff that we talked about and stuff like that. 

But I think those goals become costly when you're on the road, and you're playing against a good team. 

I think the second half, we came out and the first 20, 25 minutes, we got in very good spots. But then our ability in the final third; that little bit of creativity, ability of players to take guys one-on-one, beat players, get quality crosses, make things happen. We didn't have that ability to do so, and then obviously we gave up a second goal. Again, for me, it was a tough one. 

And then the red card, you know, was one that, you know, in moments like that, making a play like that put the team in a really difficult spot. Then we took a risk. We tried to push the game the best that we could, and then you open up yourself like we did late in the game. But it all starts, I think for me, just, you know, going into halftime 0-0, it's a lot different than giving up a goal like that. We woke up a little bit in the second half, but it's not enough. It wasn't enough.”

On what the team can do to get Hugo Cuypers the ball more in dangerous positions…
“We have to get crosses to him. Our whole thing today was, we tried to overload the sides, and when we did, you have to look at the game, again, and look how many moments we got in wide opportunities where we broke lines and now we have to change the rhythm of the game. You have to attack with pace and give him service.  You know, we were in good spots. But if you don't give him the ball, if you don't give him service and if you don't put him in good spots, then yeah, he's going to have a lack of touches and stuff like that. 

It's going back to my other point, is that we got in good spots. We wanted to attack them in those wide areas. I think we, especially in the second half, the first 25 minutes, but then you know, we have to go with pace. We have got to attack. We have to commit defenders. We have got to run behind and we've got to get crosses in. And we didn't do that, so then it becomes difficult and frustrating for Hugo or for any other striker.”

On Maren Haile-Selassie playing on the left wing after spending a lot of time on the right wing for Chicago this season…
“I switched the guys up. I knew the right side was the side with [Brooks] Lennon and Saba [Lobjanidze]; that they overloaded that side. You know, but it's also a side that they are vulnerable in transition moments. And we started the game with him out wide and Fabi [Herbers] on the other side because they are strong with their outside backs getting forward. We wanted to free up Guti [Brian Gutierrez] more in the middle, but that wasn't working, and we switched it quickly because we were getting really not lack of pressure in the middle. So Maren, I think, has the ability, even in the past, that we’ve put a lot on the left at times. He likes coming inside on his right foot. But I think he's comfortable playing on either side. But this was more of a tactical situation the way we started the game.”

On playing some of the best teams in the Eastern Conference during the Club’s first few matches of the season and what those teams have that the Fire is lacking…

“When you come on the road, and you give up goals the way we give up goals, timely goals, you know, you put yourself in a hole right away. When we get in good spots, and we are not as dangerous in the final third, we don't create opportunities, we have to keep a clean sheet. We have to keep it tight. 

When you give up soft goals like I felt, for me, the first two goals were, then it's difficult on the road, or against any opponent or even at home. We need to tighten things up there. We need to be more focused on the field. There's got to be more leadership on the field, I feel, in moments like that because it's hard for us in the 45th minute or 44th minute in front of 45,000. It's not easy for them to hear. This is stuff that we've talked about and we over, and it's a mentality. It's really a mentality. It's a whole team thing. 

And we're evaluating, and at this moment, you know, we have to see how certain things are. If not, we've got to find the right solutions. I have to find the right solutions with the guys there that are at least going to be more focused and really cued in. Because when you give goals like that, then you put yourself in a difficult spot. There's no other way to say it. There's nothing else we can do. We can do a lot of things but then when you give up three goals in games, you're not going to win a lot of games.”

Chicago Fire FC Winger Maren Haile-Selassie

On how he’s feeling and the chances that he had during the game…“Yeah, I mean, it's a very tough one. I feel like the coaching staff prepared us really good for this game and especially the first two goals that we conceded were exactly the way that we were talking about; that we didn't want to concede goals that way, like between the center backs and the second post, crosses. 

So yeah, it's a tough one. We had also some good moments. When we respected the structure, we came in good spots. It's just about finding the ball now. But it's a very tough one today.”

On what lessons can be learned from the way the game played out…“Like you said, they are one of the better teams. But I think that we were here to compete and for the most part, we did good. I feel like that they didn't have, like, huge chances except the goals that they scored. 

Yeah, it's about respecting the structure and just staying with the mind focused so we don't give up like crazy or stupid red cards and crosses like that, but we conceded goals so I would say we can learn a lot from this game.”

On how he feels in the left winger position…“I felt pretty good. Especially today we wanted to build out with three guys behind, so I was more, like, in the pockets, not really out wide. I feel like I found some good spaces and we had some good combinations. Like I said, now it's about the final pass, final finish.” 

On how it will feel to go back to Soldier Field after playing two straight games on turf…“To be honest, I’m looking forward to play home again because playing away, it's never easy, even though the two turfs that we just played (on)  are pretty good quality. It wasn't like a huge adaptation that we had to do. But obviously you prefer to play on normal grass and especially at home. Now the next couple games we have some home games. It's going to be huge games for us.”