Chicago Fire held their final first team training session of the 2011 season this morning officially bringing an end to a year of ups and downs that culminated in narrowly missing the playoffs for just the third time in team history.
After training, head coach Frank Klopas took a few minutes to talk to reporters about wrapping up the season and looked ahead to offseason plans while preparing for 2012. In the final week of training, the Fire brought in a number of trialists and guests to run through practices with the first team. Overall, Klopas was happy with what he saw after the Fire were eliminated from playoff contention as they closed out their season with a win over Columbus. "The attitude has been fantastic with the guys, and it also gave us an opportunity to look at some players. It's been very good, but you...feel kinda sad that it's coming to an end because you spend so much time with these players over the year and you build a bond. It's just like a family," said the Fire's now permanent head coach.
Klopas spent most of the rest of the time answering questions about the prospect of who may or may not return in 2012. He said he doesn't anticipate much movement in the way of roster changes, at least not in terms of wholesale changes in the manner the Fire experienced after the 2010 season. He acknowledged, as he has previously the need for another striker and box-to-box midfielder and also added that the team would like to find a solution at left back to strengthen the depth chart behind Gonzalo Segares.
A few other key points discussed:
-At this point, Marco Pappa is set to return to the Fire next season to finish out his contract. He did not speculate on a possible move elsewhere during the offseason for the Guatemalan.
-When asked about Pavel Pardo returning Klopas echoed what has already been known since the season ended. Pardo's definitely has a desire to return and the Fire want to bring him back. Pardo himself has said he would like to hammer out a deal with the Fire by the end of November.
-Klopas said Sebastian Grazzini will begin the 2012 season with the club (his 1-year contract extends through July 2012).
-He confirmed that there's an option to sign Diego Chaves for 2012, but he did not commit to the Fire moving in that direction, which could mean an exit for the Uruguayan.
-Klopas said he was happy with Logan Pause's role as captain in the 2011 season but stopped short of affirming that Pause would reprise his role as captain when he returns in 2012.
-Klopas also addressed Sean Johnson and Orr Barouch leaving over the winter to train abroad correcting numerous rumors that those training stints were trial situations. He acknowledged (again) the real possibility of both individuals training with Manchester United and Maccabi Haifa respectively but affirmed that in both cases it was a training-only arrangement.
-He confirmed that Dominic Oduro, team MVP in 2011, will return for the 2012 season.
-Additionally, another source has confirmed that Daniel Paladini will be back for the 2012 season.