After enjoying off days on Monday and Tuesday the Fire resumed training today ahead of a Sunday visit to Portland to face the Timbers, a team they lost to twice last season. They'll be without central defender Arne Friedrich for a while though. The World Cup veteran left Saturday's match against Sporting Kansas City with an apparent hamstring injury and a subsequent MRI revealed a Grade 2 strain. The injury will keep him out of action for 3-4 weeks according to a team spokesman.
The expansion Timbers defeated the Fire in their opening home match at Jeld-Wen Field on a rain soaked slippery turf in front of a raucous crowd but Chicago has seen some drastic changes since then. "Two completely different teams and two completely different years and we're not opening the stadium," said Fire captain Logan Pause comparing 2011 and 2012 encounters with Portland. "Not to say that their fans aren't crazy and give it everything they have but since we're not opening the stadium (this year) there probably will be a little less energy than last time," said Pause. "Different staffs, different personnel , that's (2011) kind of thrown out the window and we're approaching it as an opportunity to get points."
Frank Klopas will prepare for the turf and tight confines of the pitch at Jeld-Wen by conducting training this week on Toyota Park's artificial practice field. "It's a game where he have to concentrate and stay focused because you don't want to give up any fast goals and let the crowd into the game. The atmosphere and the playing conditions is something we need to take account of, we're going to training this week to kind of simulate the field conditions there," said Klopas. He plans to "bring in the field a little bit" to match the Timbers 70x110 pitch.
"We're looking forward to the opportunities ahead but there's no easy games in this league," said Pause. "I don't think their record is indicative of how good they are as a team. Their home field is not an easy place to play, we opened that venue last year and we know it all too well," he continued. Did Pause miss the pageantry of opening another stadium in 2012 given that BBVA Compass Field just opened in Houston? "I think we're okay to let other teams open them up," he said with a laugh.
Rolfe return near?
Chris Rolfe did not participate in full training this morning but he did continue running laps while his teammates ran drills. "I'm hoping every day that he'll have his shoes on and train," said Klopas. "I've talked to the trainers and I was hoping that this week he could be on the field training and that's still the goal. Hopefully, by the end of this week he's training with the team."
Robayo looking for a transfer?
In an interview with Colombia's El Enspectador, Rafael Robayo speaks about his time so far in MLS and claims that things are not what he expected. Among the highlights, Robayo says he's bored with MLS and is waiting for the transfer window to open so that he can look at other options in more competitive leagues. He's also open to a return to Millonarios although no conversations have taken place.
"I know it's a growth process but MLS is not what I was expecting," says Robayo in the article. "I want to be in a more competitive league where the football is more like it is in South America and more importantly where I can get more minutes. My goal is to play for the national team and I won't get there sitting on the bench. I know I have the talent to be chosen but I need minutes in order for them to notice me."
"The league is very fast and strong but not very technical. Good latin football is seldom seen. Even the economics are different. What I'm earning here is similar to what I was earning at Millos. Also here, football goes pretty much unnoticed in comparison to baseball, American football, and basketball."
Why did he leave Colombia? "Because I couldn't come to an agreement with Millonarios to continue and I thought it was a great opportunity to continue growing. It was a good offer and I could live in a beautiful city," Robayo told El Espectador.
"I've got some very good options," he continues. "I can go to Mexico or Europe. The chance also exists that I could go back but the truth is I haven't spoken to anyone at Millos. For now I'm going to enjoy playing in this league as much as I can."
After training this morning I asked Frank Klopas if Robayo had approached him with his displeasure or requested a transfer when the opportunity arises. Here's his response:
"No, I don't read Spanish. MLS is a very, very good league. It's a very strong league. I don't know, you're going to have to ask Rafa but he's been very positive in training and he's had a very good attitude. The team is a little bit different because there's a lot of depth in the team. From my standpoint, it's good that you're able to go the bench and bring quality players in and you know the quality doesn't drop."
"(MLS) It's a very competitive and very strong league. I think players and I'm not saying Rafa I'm just speaking in general terms, players that come from Europe have a very difficult time and it's always going to take some time for everyone to adjust. It depends on what league you compare to," said Klopas. In comparison to Colombia's Liga Postobon? "I think that the league (MLS) is stronger personally, but that's just my opinion," said Klopas.
Robayo made it clear when he signed for Chicago that he was hoping to catch the attention of a Euro club for 2013 but the comments are a bit misplaced and slightly out of touch considering that he did not play well enough in training camp to earn a starting position. Adjusting to the style of play in the league has been an issue but he has started to play well in substitution stints over the last three games. You can't begrudge a player for wanting to play in the top leagues for top dollar but players coming into the league who aren't familiar with MLS need to realize that nothing will be handed to you just because you've played in a big club atmosphere. You've still got to earn your way onto the field and up until now, Robayo hasn't done that.
He'd be best served by continuing to work in training, improving his game, helping the team win and everything else will take care of itself. It seems that Chicago was always a one season stop for him and the frustration caused by a lack of playing time has spurned a desire to begin talking about options now.
More Euro options?
Speculation about Marco Pappa's future has floated across the old rumor mill since last season. There are apparently no impending offers for his services but he has drawn some interest from at least two European teams. One of them is not FC Twente, who was the main rumored destination this past January. Feyenoord in the Netherlands may have an interest along with a German club.
Third kit rescue?
For the past several seasons Fire supporters have been demanding a third kit incorporating the City of Chicago flag design that was used back in 2005 but the organization for whatever reason has been reluctant to bring it back. At last month's Town Hall Meeting, Fire owner Andrew Hauptman cited Adidas' concerns over a small order which wouldn't necessarily generate jersey sales more than a few hundred as a reason for not pursuing a third kit design. Now it seems Section 8 Chicago has taken matters into their own hands.
After Houston broadcaster Glenn Davis announced that the Dynamo's third kit would be available in a limited run of 300 made by Adidas, the creative minds within the supporter's group generated a mock-up that they hope to get manufactured. Check out the mock-up here.
Would you buy one? Think it would sell more than 300 units?
My answer to both of those questions is undoubtedly yes.
Kinney still on the long road back
Steven Kinney isn't cleared for full training yet but a good sign was witnessed at training today. The third year defender participated in more vigorous ball work on the side during practice and seems to have finally taken the next step on his long road to recovery. He's still got a ways to go considering he hasn't played a competitive match since the last game of the 2010 season.