With the 2012 Superdraft only days away, Frank Klopas and the Fire are in the process of shaping the squad that will report for the beginning of training camp next week. That includes re-signing veteran midfielder Pavel Pardo. Klopas expects that Pardo will be signed and ready to go when the team begins workouts for the 2012 season on January 18 in Bridgeview. "We're close, I'm pretty sure he'll be ready for training camp," said Klopas when reached from the site of the MLS Combine in Florida.
After the addition of Rafael Robayo to fortify the midfield, Klopas is also still looking to add an international forward to the squad. "We're still hoping to get that (deal) done before the start of camp because I've always said it's important to have everybody from the start of camp," said Klopas. The Fire's coach also added that he feels the squad will be close to the one that will begin the season when camp begins next week. There may be additions before the season starts but the core of the group should be in place come January 18.
More on Robayo
Klopas described the Fire's newest acquistion as "a true number 8 who can play in different spots." Klopas expects to have some flexibility when choosing line-ups and formations as a result of Robayo's versatility. The Fire head coach hopes that Robaya can fill a spot next to Pardo in a dual holding role behind Grazzini or even spell Pardo in the holding role from time to time although the Colombian prefers to play more advanced. Playing him at the top of a diamond with Grazzini as a withdrawn forward is also an option. "The guy was great at Millonarios, well respected (by the club and their fans) and he's only twenty-seven so he's still in his prime," added Klopas.
Pappa Still In Red For Now
When asked about the persistent transfer talk surrounding Marco Pappa, Klopas reaffirmed that talks have not taken place with European clubs and the team has not received an offer from FC Twente. While the organization is well aware of Pappa's Euro desire, the club may choose to hold on to the Guatemalan midfielder for the time being. I got the impression that the club would be open to negotiation if an acceptable offer was made, but to date there has been no such offering. "We'll do what's best for the Fire if it means (keeping Pappa) through this year," said Klopas.
Coaching Staff Set
Klopas also confirmed that his coaching staff is set with the addition of Mike Matkovich and the return of Leo Percovich. Matkovich was part of Carlos De Los Cobos' staff in 2009 before being replaced by Percovich last season. Goalkeepers coach Aron Hyde and strength and conditioning coach Tony Jouaux will also return.
The Fire's 2011 first round selection of Jalil Anibaba proved to be a pretty successful choice with the rookie defender starting off at right back before seemingly finding a groove at central defender. "It took some time for Jalil to get acclimated to the league but we're happy with his progress as a central defender," offered Klopas. The Fire hope that the 2012 class turns out to be just as helpful although the team isn't particularly targeting one position over the other. "We've got a list of about thirty players that we've targeted and we do our own mock draft going through all the possibilities before we pick," he added. "At forward we're looking for a guy that can step in right away and we think we have that with the new player we're adding so we're not set on picking a forward. It'll be the best fit for us at the time."
The club's technical staff weighs in on each player listed on the team's draft depth chart but the final call will be made by Klopas when the time comes to pick a name. "We've seen just about all of them (players at the combine) before we get down here so now it's just a matter getting one more look before the draft."
The Fire have had some luck in the draft in recent years with Patrick Nyarko (Jeff Crandall talks to Nyarko about his draft day in 2008 here), Sean Johnson, and Anibaba all solid first team contributors who have shown signs of being more than just solid performers. Klopas said the team will also continue to look for opportunities to get some of the younger players on the squad an opportunity to train with European sides during the offseason in the same fashion that Sean Johnson was afforded a chance at Everton last month. The developing relationship with Atletico Madrid may provide that opportunity in off-seasons to come.
As for former Fire defender Wilman Conde and his expressed desire to return to MLS and Chicago, Klopas added that he still has not heard directly from Conde and the former All-Star is still under contract with Atlas so it's impossible to comment on what his future may be until the situation with his current club is finalized.