Newly acquired Alvaro Fernandez trained with the team for the first time this morning and feels he's ready to step in where ever he's needed. Where exactly on the pitch that might be has yet to be determined but the Uruguayan midfielder says he can play anywhere including in the middle of the park. "Generally I feel comfortable in the middle or any position. In Seattle I played left midfield and a little bit on the right and I can play there too but I've also played in the center of the pitch and on the right as well. I don't have a problem with any position," said Fernandez.
Getting forward and scoring goals is something he was able to effectively in Seattle and he thinks he can contribute the same thing in Chicago. "I can help in holding the ball in possession and by getting myself into attacking positions to score goals," said Fernandez after stating that fitness is not an issue and he's ready to go right away. "Physically, I've been playing so I don't have any problems. I trained up until Friday last week and physically I'm good. It's just about getting accustomed to my teammates and the system here," he said.
Frank Klopas wasn't ready to name starters for the Toronto match instead pointing to form and competition as determining factors when completing a starting eleven. "Flaco can play left or right," said Klopas. "Who's in form will determine who's going to play now."
MacDonald trying to work into fitness
Unlike Fernandez, the Fire's other transfer window acquisition has joined the team in the midst of his offseason and needs to work his way back up to full fitness. Sherjill MacDonald feels he's at about "70 percent" and is working to regain sharpness in front of goal and the "quick movements" required to compete for a starting spot as the target forward the club has been missing. "Normally I play as a target man. I can hold the ball decently but I've also played on the sides a lot, but mostly I'm a player that's running everywhere. I can play anywhere in the front," said MacDonald when describing himself as a player.
His contract calls for a one and a half year base contract with an option for two more years. MacDonald is hoping to play well enough to earn the extended option and believes that he's ready for the MLS style of play. "I had a friend here in Dallas that told me a little bit about the league. It's mostly physical but in Belgium it's very physical so it's not that far apart," he said after training. He's had contact with the Fire for some time now and has apparently been on Klopas' radar through past relationships. "My manager had good contact with Frank and he saw a lot of my games on DVD and there were some American players like Klejstan playing at Anderlecht and they gave a good report. It's a long time I've been talking to Chicago through my manager. I'm happy to finally be here," said MacDonald.
The big forward is also not phased and doesn't feel any added pressure as a result of assuming a "Designated Player" tag. "I just come here to do my best and think about the hard work. If you work hard the level always comes so I don't worrry about that," said MacDonald.
Klopas on moves and the current squad
Klopas sees both players being able to step in and help the club right away but admits Fernandez is further along fitness-wise at the moment. "With Sherjill every day is better but Flaco is fit. Flaco knows the league and he knows our team so that's any easy transition. With Mac, every day that he's with us he gets better and better. His whole thing is to get him fitness and into games. Flaco needs to get used to new teammates and how we do things but he's a smart player, he'll adapt pretty quick," said the head coach.
Both players have added depth and competition that should help fuel a playoff run although Klopas feels that this squad has always been a playoff caliber team. "I felt like that from the beginning, I felt like that last year when I stepped in. I believe in the group. I always felt that we had a team that could make the playoffs from the beginning of the season. When you do that, anything and everything is possible," he said.
"The depth is a lot better, there's more competition for spots on the team and I've felt it was about the team and you have to count on all the players throughout the season. I feel the same way right now," said Klopas. When asked if there were any positions that he would have liked to have filled during the transfer window he replied, "Right now I feel good. We added another forward and another wide guy. It's more depth. We've always played with two strikers, Mac is a number 9 who plays higher up the pitch and Rolfie's a second striker who plays underneath."
How the pieces will fit into place with different options and formations is yet to be seen but Klopas seems to want to get Chris Rolfe closer to goal although he doesn't call the formation he has been using a 4-5-1 utilizing a single forward. "I think we've been playing with two strikers. We play with a first striker and a second striker. Rolfe and Alex can play the same spot as a second striker," he explained. "Chris has been used wide and in other places because we didn't have the depth. Now we do. Now he can get up the field and play closer to the second striker."
- Cory Gibbs continued his road to recovery jogging laps around the practice field. He still looks to be ahead of schedule.
- Stephen Kinney continues to work and is relatively pain free.
- Rafael Robayo trained with the team this morning. He is not scheduled to depart for Colombia until the end of the week so the club has invited him to train with the team until then.
- There is nothing new to report on the status of Sebastian Grazzini
- Klopas also shared some thoughts on the San Jose game this past weekend. "It was an open game. Exciting and entertaining. The way the game played out...sometimes that's soccer. The only disappointing thing for me is that you get a red card and the guy wasn't even going to call it, which is terrible. Then something's thrown on the field and they're delaying the game and we get punished for it with extra time. That I don't understand. But for sure I'm proud of the performance of the guys, they put a lot on the field and now we have to continue because dropping those points did hurt in the end," said Klopas.