The Fire are beginning the next phase of training camp in Tampa, Florida. Training is underway ahead of the first preseason match of the year on Saturday against the University of South Florida. Coach Veljko Paunovic provided an update via a media conference call on Monday afternoon.
'We are preparing good today in two sessions that we had," said Paunovic. "This week we are focusing on increase of our anaerobic threshold. I think we had a couple of sessions where the players showed good level of fitness. Everything that we’ve done in the past week worked very well. Now so far, we are not having any sort of issues with soreness or any other."
With fitness being the main focus of the first week, the team is now transitioning into working on other aspects as well as stamina. "We are working progressively. We are working on all aspects of integrated methods. We are doing so far the best, on the physical level. The players are very motivated and doing their best but we need more time to understand how we want to play our style, concept, and recognition of situations during the game in order to take advantage of our good preparation," explained Paunovic of the training agenda.
"I think our team is very good in pace and in how we control the game. The sessions were very good. So far, I think that we still have to improve our mechanisms of getting in the final third. It’s still too far, we didn’t work on that so it’s something that’s normal. At this point in the preseason we are still working on learning all together, those pieces are still missing. We’re going step by step. Right now, the good point is to understand the possession and the advantages of the possession, and improve the mechanisms of finishing and getting in the final third."
Paunovic also noted that fitness was very important for the "high intensity" style of play that he wants to develop.
More work to do on the roster
The Fire aren't done adding reinforcements but Paunovic didn't have any update on moves relating to the close of the European window on Monday. “We’re not ready to announce anything at this point. We what are doing right now is focusing on what we have. Once we are ready, we’ll be very happy to share everything and help integrate any future signing that we may have, but at this point we are not ready to announce anything," he said.
Paunovic and the coaching staff are proceeding with training under the pretense that the men on hand will represent the roster come first kick in order to keep things moving.
“I’m very happy with the group that we have. We still to improve the group and make some improvements in some positions but we are very, very focused on what we have. This is how we work. We are working individually with our players, and working as a group and as a team. We are working like this is the group that we’re going to have on March 6 and during the whole season. This is our approach at this moment."
LaBrocca and Alvarez join camp
The Fire have signed MLS veteran Nick LaBrocca and have invited Arturo Alvarez into camp on a trial. Both players joined up with the team on Sunday and have begun training.
"They are working on a separate regimen, where they are working on the aerobic capacity that we had done last week," said Paunovic. ?At the same time (they’re also working) on all the tasks and drills so we can incorporate them. They did all the games and tactical work in working with the team but on the fitness level they worked separate. That’s the same thing for everyone who may come in the future."
“The impressions are very good in two sessions we had with them. First of all, they are very good people, and that’s what we are looking for and what we always highlighted. They are very good players. They are veterans of the league, all the players know them. They integrated very fast into the group. Now they have to go to their fitness level."
"We are looking to forward to see how they can help us, in the case of Nick obviously (he's signed). In the case of Arturo Alvarez, we still have to see what he can offer to this group and this team and our club in order to make decisions in the future."
Harry Shipp played on the right for much of his time on the field last season, although he did get some chances to play in a more central or playmaking position as well. Paunovic sees him as a centrally located player first, who can also play on the wing as well. “As attacking midfielder, either behind on the striker or on the wing," he said of what he thinks is Shipp's best position. "I think that he has that quality, that he can switch positions with another teammate. It think his main quality is that he’s very, very good on the ball. Good technique, but I still think he needs to improve. Especially in that hunger to score goals and to give assistance or increase his general space and impact in the game."
Paunovic also said that Kennedy Igboananike could help at right mid as well. It would seem that Gilberto will be the first choice striker, so finding a regular spot for the team's third Designated Player could be a challenge.
“I think that he can help us either as a forward or as a winger. At the same time, we know that we have quality players in our attacking line. It’s a great advantage to manage and switch from one formation to another in order to be adaptable and not predictable," said Paunovic.
On the HG's
Paunovic had good things to say about new Homegrown players Drew Conner and Joey Calistri. The playing time on first team may be hard to come by but they're in the mix so far.
“We are happy with their performance. Very smart kids. In all our sessions they are giving their best. They want to learn the style of play. They want to increase their level. Technique is very important for both of them. They’re very good but they still can improve, so we’re working a lot on technique and tactical level to increase that in their play."
Paunovic said that he's not committed to a starting line up for the upcoming game against the University of South Florida. At this point, presenting opportunities for as many players as possible seems to be more important than naming starters for the tune-up match.
"I’m still looking at everything as a whole," he said. "The first preseason game will serve to see where we are in all those aspects. What we’ll look for in that game is to see that hunger, that passion that we want to win. We will respect everyone, and we want to play every single game as our last or as our final. It doesn’t matter the opponent. It doesn’t matter where we are playing or if it’s preseason or season. We always want to have that attitude and winning mentality and give our best in every game."
- The match against the University of South Florida will be streamed live at chicago-fire.com, Saturday at 4pm.
- Marcin Kaminski played in a 3-1 friendly loss to Slavia Praha on Monday morning. The Fire are still actively pursuing Kaminski. The close of the European window means that the player's options in Europe have closed for now, so he'll likely either remain at Lech Poznan or agree to a Chicago move. Euro teams can still transfer players out after the window closes. The MLS window is open until May.
- The addition of Johan Kappelhof is imminent.
- On top of the center back, which could be Kaminski or a Spanish defender, the Fire are also pursuing a right back, and another midfielder.