With preseason coming to a premature end due to weather conditions in Charleston, South Carolina last night the Fire are headed back to Chicago with a few decisions to make before first kick. The match against the Charleston Battery was cancelled but the Fire will take on the NSC Minnesota Stars at the Toyota Park practice field this coming Friday morning in the the final tune up before they open the season in Montreal on March 17.
With that in my mind Jeff Krause and I take a look at the pre-season, roster cuts, rookies, new additions, and what to look for in the opener at Montreal in the first episode of the Fire Confidential Podcast. Give it a listen here.
Klopas & Pre-Season notes
With Sean Johnson expected to be heavily involved with the US U-23 squad this summer, Frank Klopas is looking to both Jay Nolly and Paolo Tornaghi to step in when called up. Klopas won't hesitate to use either one, "Right now it’s about having depth and feeling good in every position. We brought in Jay because he’s an experienced guy. Knowing that we might miss Sean, it was very important to have three guys that you feel comfortable with and Paolo is a young guy with a big upside and he’s been in a very good environment and he’s come in and is very mature for his age, so it’s good that we have depth in that position,” said Klopas.
The forward position is one spot most observers feel is missing one final piece. Klopas seems content with what the team has now but is still looking at bringing in other players if the current bunch struggles. "We have Dom and Patrick, but we’ve also got Federico Puppo here who’s a very promising and young player. We’ve got Orr and Dube, and I think if we were going to go down that way, we looked at some different options where we have identified a couple players that have not played within the league that we feel would bring something different than what we have, so we’re looking at those options. It’s not necessarily our concentration right now because we do feel there’s some depth with the guys we’ve brought in, but we have already identified strikers that we follow, that we really like, and that we feel would be a good fit with us,” he said when asked about the striker position.
Paladini sees benefit of continuity and competition
In his second season with the club Daniel Paladini seems to have embraced the battle for a spot in a crowded midfield by turning in a impressive preseason effort. He feels the competition, particularly in South Carolina has been good for the team. “I think every phase has been different. This has probably been our best phase. That’s what the coaches want to see, and what we want to see going into the game against Montreal. We’ve had a bunch of callups and sickness, which has put a little damper on us, but that’s also opened up doors for other guys to step up, including myself. That’s only going to make our team better every day by competing and fighting for spots. Whether it’s any of us coming off the bench, or starting, we’re going to be ready, so it’s good,” said Paladini.
He also feels it was important to keep the squad that finished so strongly in 2011 mostly intact. “Any time you can spend 2, 3, 4 years with a team you get more comfortable with the team and with the organization. I think it’s great we've kept our core. If you look at teams like RSL and the Galaxy they’ve had their cores for quite some time now and it shows. I wouldn't say the Galaxy, beside their DP’s have the best guys out on the field but they know how each other plays and I definitely think that’s an advantage. I guess I have taken on more of a vet role whether it’s captaining the reserve team or what not, I’ll take it. I feel like I've gained most of the guys respect and I’m going to help the team in any way possible whether it’s coming off the bench, starting, or getting a couple minutes, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Pause excited for 2012
Team captain Logan Pause is anxious to get the season started and chimed in on the advantages of having most of the squad intact this pre-season. “It’s a double edged sword. When you’re bringing everyone back it’s positive. There are little pieces that are dangerous because you don’t want complacency, you don’t want comfort, and you want everyone still raring to go, looking over their shoulder. I think we've done a good job of that. I think we’ve got a strong team with good depth that is going to push whoever’s starting. I think we saw glimpses last year of what this group is capable of, which is great. I think we just need to have a good start to the season,” said Pause before the Carolina Challenge Cup finale which was eventually rained out.
Section 8 Chicago ISA Board meeting
Any supporters interested in discussing the upcoming events and activities of the ISA for 2012 or just meeting fellow supporters are welcome to attend the next board meeting which will be held at Atlantic Bar in Chicago (5062 N. Lincoln) on Wednesday, March 7 at 7pm. Anyone interested in adding an agenda item for discussion can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.