The Fire are training in Charleston, South Carolina for the next two weeks in the final stage of pre-season camp. A match against the Houston Dynamo this Saturday will be the first of three contests in the annual Carolina Challenge Cup warm-up. Frank Klopas talked about the decisions remaining to be made as the season approaches during his weekly press conference call this morning. Among the topics was the addition of Premiere League veteran right back Pascal Chimbonda as a trialist. The former French international defender will be 34 next week and has been away from active football for a few months so Klopas is looking to get him into game action before making a decision on his status. "We need to see his mobility still on the field," said Klopas. "He’ll play in some games and we’ll need to see that and also how he fits in within our group. The goal is overall to have quality and a deeper team at every spot," he continued.
Chimbonda can also play centerback, which is a trait Klopas is looking for. "We’d like to get another guy that can be a little more of a dual role that can play centerback," said Klopas while adding that both Logan Pause and Jalil Anibaba are capable of playing on the right as well as in the middle if necessary. The coach was also happy with the progress that Steven Kinney has made in his return from injury. "He’s come along really well up to this point. He keeps improving and getting better which has been a great surprise for us just to see him stay healthy and continue to play well," he said of the third year defender who missed the entire 2012 season due to a variety of ailments.
Pineda on the mend
Another player in the recovery room is Homegrown player Victor Pineda. The midfielder underwent offseason season surgery to repair a torn meniscus but he wasn't quite ready to join the club in Charleston for the final phase of camp. The procedure employed to repair his knee has kept him out of training a little longer than expected but Klopas explained that the staff was still optimistic about his return. "Because of the procedure they did with his meniscus, instead of cleaning it there was an opportunity to stitch that together and the process takes a little bit longer because of the unique time for the blood flow to go there and to heal," said Klopas. "Actually doing that procedure was a lot better for him long term. I think he’s progressing well but he’s not here in camp."
The coaching staff is hoping that Pineda can begin running and training once the club returns to Chicago. "It’s tough because we initially thought that sometimes when you get a meniscus you go in and you clean it and you’re two weeks back but the way it was done over the long term it was better to do it this way and the process takes a lot longer," explained Klopas.
The Fire's second Homegrown player, Kellen Gulley has rejoined the club in South Carolina after missing parts of the last phase while the team explored a loan deal. That plan still seems to be in effect for Gulley, who has a struggled a bit against first team competition. "With Kellen we’re looking at opportunities where we can loan him out to a USL team where he’s able to get games. He needs to get meaningful games and minutes to play well," said Klopas.
The Fire is still looking to add another player or two but the first team roster appears to be close to set. The additions are likely to be moves aimed at depth, with players like Chimbonda and Quincy Amarikwa seen as possible reinforcements. The well traveled attacker joined the Fire as a "guest player" last weekend and impressed against San Jose.
"We’re trying to look at it and sort it out," said Klopas of a deal that would bring Amarikwa to the Fire permanently. "We liked when he was here and what he brings. He’s a guy that we’re going to look at the situation and see if it makes sense to get him in here again. We’re discussing that possibility," he continued. Amarikwa's MLS rights are currently held by Toronto FC.
The roster is likely to be filled by players we've already seen in camp and not necessarily a new face at this point. "It could be a guy like Amarikwa that we had in. We’ve had some guys that have been here from the beginning. I think we’re pretty close to where we want to be. Some of the guys that we’ve had in camp we need to make decisions on and we’ve already started that process," said Klopas when asked about the possibility of adding new players before the season begins.
Atouba continues to impress
The rookie midfielder has been the talk amongst fans after three impressive preseason outings and Klopas reiterated that he likes what he sees as well. "What I like about him is that with the ball he’s got the ability to beat defenders and as you can see he’s dangerous in the final third," he said. "He’s not scared to get the ball and he wants the ball in difficult moments and that’s a plus," Klopas continued. Defending is one area that needs improvement but the gaffer feels that will come with time as Atouba continues to train hard and build strength while trying to learn English according to Klopas. "On the field it’s all about the ability to play. On the field it’s just about soccer and he’s not intimidated at all which is a very positive thing."