I spoke to Frank Klopas yesterday about a number of topics before the Fire played New York in two exhibition matches in Florida. Klopas cited the general positive attitude surrounding the team as an encouraging sign early in camp. "The second phase has been very good as far as what we've planned for and what we've accomplished. The attitude has been very good and Carlos has been very loose. It's still early and we we're looking to see progress" said Klopas. "The most important thing has been the attitude of the group so far. Everybody is on the same page and working hard for the team."
A concentrated focus has been put on attempting to familiarize the survivors from last season's squad with the newcomers this year. "The focus in camp (Phase 2 in Florida) has been the emphasis on the training pitch on functional and tactical work so players can develop more of an understanding of the way we want to play. We've got different players with different qualities this year and we needed to spend more time getting the group accustomed to each other while building kind of a family before focusing on tactical organization and fitness."
Klopas also addressed some of the questions that have been bandied about among Fire supporters this preseason:
Will the Fire pursue more of a true #10 or playmaker to fill out the squad?
FK : "It's very difficult to play in a 4-4-2 with two straight forwards and a number 10 in the middle that's just a playmaker. If you look around the world at any level most teams now play with two holding players. If you have a true playmaker he is going to have the "free" role up front that Puerari will play for us. He's clever with the ball and he's got good vision where he can make the final pass but he's also dangerous in the final third. We'll have to be patient because it does take time for players to adjust to a new team and a new league. Uruguay is a very physical and competitive league (similar to MLS)."
On expectations for Puerari and Chaves and service to the forwards
FK : "Puerari is a second striker/playmaker. I'm not comparing him to this guy, but to give you an idea, he can play a similar role to Schelotto who comes underneath in the open space between the back line and the midfield. He's able to receive the ball and create for himself and for his teammates."
"Carlos was familiar with Chaves having played in Mexico and he also played in Uruguay with a very good team. He can play with his back to goal, he's got good feet, he's good in the air but he's also got good pace where you can play a ball into space. They're good players with different qualities."
"With players like Chaves you need to provide service and get the ball into the right spots. We have some good wide players in Marco, Patrick, and Ristic. Banner and Bone can also play wide and beat defenders if they have to. Depending on who we're playing we'll need to decide who can provide more crosses from the end line or who can play more into space or who's better playing it into feet. It depends - forwards need the ball in good positions to be succesful."
On building the 2011 roster with or without a DP
FK : "We still have three international spots available so we're still looking for someone who can bring something different to the table from what we've got. For sure another forward. We're looking at some different options there and possibly another player in the back."
"We'll bring in one or two more guys to fill in those spots and we'll be able to keep salary space available that will give us an opportunity to make another move in June (when the Euro transfer window opens)."
On first round pick Jalil Anibaba and open tryout winner Pari Pantazopoulos
FK : "Anibaba has done very well. He's got a lot of confidence and he's very vocal. He's also very athletic and a very good 1v1 defender. So far he's been what we expected and he has a tremendous upside. He's played so far at right back which gives us different options...which is good for the coach."
"Pari has also done well. He's had some experience overseas in Cyprus. He's a good technical player with a good left foot who can play different spots on the field. He's a young guy who can fill one of those developmental spots from 24-28. We just have to wait and see when we make those decisions in the end but so far he's done very well."
On the possibility of adding Homegrown Players to the squad
FK : "We have some good players there but we're not going to sign players just for the sake of signing a player. We have some good prospects on the Homegrown list and some are already in the first year of college. We're going to wait and make the right decision when those guys are ready to take the next step."
On Marko Babic rumors
FK : "We have a connection with Babic's agent and he expressed some interest but he's a guy that's played out wide on the left. I think we're okay on that side. Sometimes people throw feelers out there to keep all their options open."