The Fire returned to training at the Toyota Park practice field on the heels of three consecutive wins against Eastern Conference foes but face another test on Tuesday with a trip to Houston. The Dynamo are in the fifth place only four points behind Chicago and Frank Klopas is expecting another difficult match on enemy turf. After a confidence building win in Kansas City with game time temperatures over 100 degrees more of the same can be expected in Texas. "It's going to be a difficult match on the road with the heat conditions and (Houston's) a very good team. They do play direct also and they're a team that's very dangerous on set pieces. There's no easy game but that's what we live and train for," said Frank Klopas after training concluded.
Klopas was happy with the win in Kansas City but is emphasizing that there is still much work left to be done. "We just have to keep going but it's just one game. Obviously it's an important win because it's an Eastern Conference team that's in front of us but it's a long road ahead. We can't get comfortable or relax," said Klopas. "We're not there (yet), it's a long way to go. It's just another step moving forward and we just have to keep improving as a team and stay focused," he continued.
The fact that the club has compiled 8 wins with the season nearly half way completed is a good sign but his long term goal remains in focus. "I'll be happy when we're in the playoffs at the end of the season. I'm happy about progress and I look where the team is and the thing is we can't get comfortable and relax at any point," said Klopas of the team's current standing. "We know what our goal is and we have to do everything possible to reach our goal. When we do, we can take a little bit of a step back and evaluate everything," he said.
- Arne Friedrich was removed late in the match due to cramps and the staff will evaluate him over the next few days. Klopas did not sound too concerned about the German defender.
- Chris Rolfe's ankle was stepped on and he spent a few anxious moments on the turf in KC but he should be okay after going 90 minutes for the first time since coming back to the team. "When he turned his ankle I was worried that it was the same injury but thank god that it wasn't," said Klopas.
- Rafael Robayo may have suffered a separated shoulder after taking a hard spill shortly after entering the match. "He hurt his shoulder and there may be a dislocation. We're not quite sure but I give the guy a lot of credit because he's been coming in (to games) in difficult situations and showing his class. He got hurt early on but stayed on and played through the pain and actually helped us in those tough moments in the game to get a hold of the ball and calm the game down," said Klopas.
- Klopas was happy with Alex's first game action although he said he didn't catch his brief glimpse of Brazilian flair near the touchline late in the game. "I think he came in with no fear and with belief in his abilities. I thought he did well. He showed that he's a guy that can help the team and one that we can count on," said Klopas.
- The head coach also commented on Sean Johnson's recent excellent form and building confidence after several acrobatic saves that earned the club a victory in KC. "He's always had the ability to make saves like that. He has that. He's quality. I think other parts of his game are getting better. Managing the game in the situations (like) when to play quick and when not to. His presence in the box and his command is getting a lot better coming out but in that game he made some world class saves," said Klopas.
- Klopas feels the struggles and aftermath of the Olympic qualifying loss is no longer a factor for Johnson. "It's all about playing. When you don't play and I felt that he was put into a difficult situation and sometimes you have to in games like that. I feel that from a mental standpoint he's back. Everything in the past is behind him," he said.
- Federico Puppo returned to training with a wrap on his right ankle.
Grazzini Story Continues
Sebastian Grazzini went through full training but Klopas was still non-committal about his status for the Houston game. When asked if Grazzini would travel to Houston his reply left things up in the air. "We'll just have to see. Seba trained today but we just have to see where he is mentally and knowing that we're playing (Tuesday) and have other games coming up. It's a long season and we're going to have to rely on everyone," he said. "We'll see. Everybody's healthy other than Rafa (Robayo)."
Grazzini politely declined to comment in detail only saying, "Things are not easy," before leaving the practice field.
Stay tuned. It seems this saga isn't quite over.
Pappa Addresses Rumors
Reports out of Guatemala cited a move to Dutch side FC Heerenveen this weekend but Marco Pappa says any talk at this point is just a rumor. "I heard about the rumors but right now there's nothing. I still have a contract with the Fire and there's nothing new. I'm trying to find a better opportunity for me to improve in my career but there's nothing right now. It's only a rumor," said Pappa. He says his focus at the moment is on continuing to play hard and making the playoffs. "Right now I'm working hard for the team," he said.