Fire notebook - Paunovic on roster youth, line up choices, new trialists, and more

The Fire are following Saturday’s 3-0 win over the University of South Florida with a game against the Philadelphia Union on Thursday afternoon. Head coach Veljko Paunovic told reporters during his weekly conference call this morning that he is very happy with the first phase of training camp so far. “We’re starting the third week of preseason, the past week was for working on our physical and athletic condition improvement. We finished with a game against University of South Florida, which helped us to see where we are in all the aspects that we were working (on). Physical, mental, technical, and tactical. We’re very happy so far on how the team is performing and improving, but obviously we know we still have to improve more,” he said.

Paunovic said that the team will continue working with the ball this week, and it helps that the team has been injury free although there have been players missing due to national team duty.

“We have a very good group so far. Our veterans are helping a lot to our youngsters to integrate and catch the level that they have. We believe that players like Mauricio (Pineda), Collin (Fernandez), Kingsley (Bryce), (Patrick) Doody, and others are the future of our team,” said Paunovic.

“We also have players who are coming back from the national team camp, which is very helpful to completing our group. That will help us to even more to work on our team spirit, building our style, and our group.”

Sean Johnson, Matt Polster, and Brandon Vincent have joined the team in Florida and will begin training with teammates this week. Missing three important players, who should be starters hasn’t been easy but Paunovic was prepared for it. “No frustrations at all,” he said. “This is part of the job. You have to work. We started with a plan. We knew when we were going to have them back. We were working with US soccer on what they were doing. We were communicating so we knew they were prepared well for this part of preseason.”

Paunovic was also happy to see Vincent get a run with the USMNT on Friday night against Canada. “We were very happy to see him play the other day. Surprisingly, but at the same time he deserved it. I’m sure that he did great at the camp. That’s how you earn the confidence of the coach. That’s what all our youngsters have to understand and do it. We are expecting from him the same thing,” he said. “He provides us with a good prospect, not only for us but for the Olympic team, National Team, and even for the senior team.”

Fire Youth

Most of the Fire’s youngsters got a chance to see some playing time against USF and Paunovic said he has been encouraged by the progress made by those professionally inexperienced players during the first two weeks of training. “They are really have been challenged for the first time to work with senior players on the professional level and I’m very, very surprised with the level and the commitment and they are proving themselves that they can be reliable in the future for our team,” he said.

One of those players, defender Mauricio Pineda is a Homegrown prospect who has committed to the University of North Carolina next fall. Paunovic wouldn’t say whether or not he could stay with the first team past training camp given that he’s signed a letter with UNC, but he has impressed so far. “It’s early to talk about that at this point. At this point, I would not say surprised, maybe that’s not the right word, we are very happy that what we expected he could do on the next level is proving that. This is what gives us security that we will have guys there. After two weeks, we’re not ready to give the credit which is necessary in order to make the decision for the coming season but we’re very happy with how they are improving.”

Joey Calistri was drafted as an attacker but got a chance to start at right back this past weekend. He worked there last week and played well enough to earn a look at another spot on the roster. “The technical staff had a discussion about where he can fit the best for our squad. We believe that we find him playing at that position in the sessions during the preseason. He proved that he can play there. That’s why we played him there. We want to find the best position for him and we have to see that in the game. We were very happy with his performance,” said Paunovic of the switch.

Ramos at RB

The Fire acquired right back Rodrigo Ramos on loan last week and he’ll have a chance to land a starting spot once he arrives in camp. He only saw the field twice as a substitute in the U20 World Cup last summer but it was enough to catch Paunovic’s attention.

“He played not too much at the World Cup, but the fact that he was a part of that great team was very important for us when he was offered on loan to us,” said Paunovic. The Fire reviewed his nine appearances with Coritiba during the past season and saw enough of a prospect to bring him in. Paunovic said that he’ll have an opportunity to show that he can improve and play at the next level regularly. The Fire have option to keep him after the one year loan spell.

“What I saw, and what the technical staff always saw is that he’s a fast player. He’s good on the ball. He has that Brazilian attacking mentality and attitude. That’s what we are looking for. He’s good defensively, but at the same time he attacks very well after the recovery.”

GK spot

Paunovic said that he expects a healthy completion in goal and didn’t readily anoint Johnson as an automatic starter. Patrick McLain will get a chance to show the technical staff that he deserves a look along with pushing the incumbent. “He is working very good so far,” said Paunovic of the former USL ‘keeper. “When Sean is back, it is very important for me to see both of them together (and) how they work. The relation they have is going to be very important for us to see who can push one or another in the best possible way to earn the spot for the starting goalkeeper.”

Line up choices

The starters this past Saturday were determined by the technical staff’s attempt to balance a competitive side with the desire to see some players at certain spots, as was the case with Calistri. Paunovic also wanted to get a look at trialists such as Arturo Alvarez and unsigned draft picks such as Vincent Keller, in significant competitive minutes.

He also added that there is currently no timeline for announcing additional player acquisitions. “We are working on the visa for Kappelhof. Meira already has his visa, so we are expecting him maybe tomorrow, or the day after. Like always, we always speak when things are done,” he said.

Thursday’s game against the Union will give more insight on where the team is at this point in preseason.


Midfielder John Goosens, a Dutch youth international, and Callum Irving, a goalkeeper from the University of Kentucky who received a call for the Canadian national team camp have joined the Fire as trialists this week.

GK: Sean Johnson, Callum Irving*, Matt Lampson*, Patrick McLain

DEF: Jonathan Campbell, Patrick Doody, Eric Gehrig, Michael Harrington, Johan Kappelhof, Vincent Keller^, Joao Meira, Mauricio Pineda^^, Rodrigo Ramos, Brandon Vincent

MID: David Accam, Arturo Alvarez*, Kingsley Bryce, Joey Calistri, Razvan Cocis, Drew Conner, Collin Fernandez, John Goosens*, Nick LaBrocca, Parker Maher**, Vincent Mitchell^, Alex Morrell^, Matt Polster, Harry Shipp, Michael Stephens

FWD: Gilberto, Kennedy Igboananike



^Unsigned draft pick

^^Academy player

**Saint Louis FC player

Filed under: 2016 Pre Season

Tags: Chicago Fire


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  • So if calistri isnt a forward, the plan is to start the season with only gilberto and igbo?

    They need to grab someone else or theyll be panic signing a Fondy in no time.

  • In reply to TomazPP:

    Yeah, I don't get having 4 keepers, 10 defenders, 15 midfielders and a paltry 2 forwards. Sure they could slide a guy or two up top if needed, but I don't like the way this is shaping up on that end. I just don't understand the way these front offices think...I hope our worries go unfounded, but I'd hate to be saying I told you so for like the 5th or 6th season in a row...

  • Thanks for the update, GR. It would be great to have a current roster with indications of what the signing status of each of the players is - hard to keep track of which of the new guys is actually on the roster and which is in on trial. Like, who is Parker Maher? And the Fire site had an interview with J Campbell and because he was not a Vincent, I forgot that he was one of our draftees. Weird.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    I've added designation keys to the roster list so that you can tell the status of each player. Guys with no mark after their names are signed players.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    Parker Maher is a trialist signed currently by St. Louis FC.

    I think Vincent is the only draftee that already signed an MLS deal. So all others are more or less on trial. Looks like Campbell at least is a good bet to be signed officially, though.

    Here's a list as far as I know-

    Signed- SJ, McLain.
    Trial- Lampson (Cbus, Free?), Irving (CanMNT, Free)

    Signed- Patrick Doody, Eric Gehrig, Michael Harrington, Johan Kappelhof, Joao Meira, Rodrigo Ramos, Brandon Vincent
    Draftee/Unsigned- Johnathan Campbell, Vincent Keller
    Fire Youth/College Bound- Pineda (UNC)

    Signed-David Accam, Kingsley Bryce, Joey Calistri, Razvan Cocis, Drew Conner, Collin Fernandez, Nick LaBrocca, Matt Polster, Harry Shipp, Michael Stephens
    Draftee/Unsigned- Vincent Mitchell, Alex Morrell
    Trialist- Arturo Alvarez (Free), John Goosens (Free), Parker Maher (SLFC)

    Signed- Gilberto, Igbo

  • In reply to TomazPP:

    GR fixed it while I was typing this...

    oh well.

  • In reply to TomazPP:

    Thanks TomazPP - and thanks GR too.

  • GR , agree with Modibo, need an update on signings/potential signings, especially Kaminski! Please explain how/why he is still on the plate now that we're past 1/31.

  • In reply to shortpasses:

    Kaminski is still a possibility past 1/31 because Euro teams can still transfer players out after the window has closed. They just can't transfer players in.

    I've heard there will be at least one more centerback and possibly another midfielder and forward added.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Any ideas on forward/midfielder?

    Would that mean someone outside of camp, or is the midfielder just going to be Alvarez? MLS free agent/waivers or outside of MLS? etc.

  • In reply to TomazPP:

    Players from outside of camp/MLS.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    So if both forwards happen to be injured, we just play one of the mids as a forward. Simple, right?

  • fb_avatar

    GR, please talk me off the ledge! With Pauno's background as a youth coach, and the current emphasis on young players, I am getting a certain vibe that the Fire is going "rebuilding/youth movement"! I just don't think the fan base can handle another long term "rebuild", new coach, new philosophy etc. If Pauno does not win soon, and NR does not provide a "competitive" experienced roster and players the Fire is once again doomed to miss the playoffs! With every team in the league "up-grading" their rosters, and expansion teams on the way, the Fire needs to win now or at least be competitive. To be fair the current roster is not one of great hope or one with high expectations, what is your opinion? I know the final roster has not been set yet but with what we "lost" in experience and talent has not been remotely replaced. Hope is one thing, talent and success is another!

  • In reply to Bob Bilocerkowycz:

    Youth doesn't necessarily mean the team is going to struggle...look at FC Dallas or Vancouver as an example.

  • In reply to Bob Bilocerkowycz:

    I'll say this, every indication I've seen and heard is that this technical staff is a big improvement over last year's. I think this team will be better prepared and more disciplined. They'll be young and they'll take some lumps but I think they'll also be interesting to watch.
    I think they'll compete but I don't think they're a playoff team as currently rostered. There should be a few more additions with players who will be starters, so it's hard to judge fully until we see what the complete roster looks like in about 4 weeks.

  • In reply to Bob Bilocerkowycz:

    This team is at least a year away from being competitive. I am very pleased that the team is moving in a younger direction. We have had too many old mediocre players for too long. We have sucked with those old guys for years now. This team hasn't had a future to look forward to for awhile. At least we will be young and playing with players we could have for the next 10 years. As long as we develop an identity and stay with it, I am willing to remain optimistic for our future. If you are expecting this team to win many games and make the playoffs this year, which you have every reason/right to want to happen, it will end up being a very long and frustrating year.

  • What happens if the Pauno/N-Rod experiment doesn't work, will we see massive changes yet again next season? It seems that under Andy all coaches/GMs last about 2 years before they are let go.

  • In reply to penapirata:

    Can't keep changing every two years. Have to commit and stick to the 3 year plan they've described.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Don't you think that NR's hiring is the league's doing in some way and that the league is telling Andy that if he does not stay out of NR's way that it won't be NR leaving the Fire but Andy?

  • In reply to Krasov:


  • Chicago NASL is underway. Event to be held at the Globe Pub this coming Monday.......

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    I see Wilt has hired Jeff Crandall. That is fantastic for Jeff and Wilt's media department.

  • In reply to penapirata:

    Great move. Good to see Jeff involved in Chicago soccer again.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Good move.

  • GR -- I just read a very good series of articles by Liviu Bird on planet futbol. They covered the relationship with Double PASS, the Belgian company currently evaluating the entire US soccer environment. The Chicago Fire has participated in this program and should have received an assessment from DoublePASS. Have you heard of this program and the Fire's assessment? I would love to read it!

  • In reply to shortpasses:

    Interesting. I have not. Will inquire.

  • Chicago Fire really should be looking to sign someone like Rio Myaichi. He is still unused by St. Pauli so what's the point of him rotting there where he could be in Chicago. He knows English which is good because of Arsenal and could be a really good replacement for Nyarko. He is also quick like Nyarko and younger so it will be an upgrade. we need that position so if Guillermo if you read this then please suggest a player like rio to pauno and at least get him on loan.

  • How does Pineda retain his amateur status if he's on a pro roster? Does he have to pay his own way down there? Football players get a plane ticket home for a funeral and its an NCAA violation. I know some college teams have international players that played professionally in their home countries.. sometimes guys in their mid to late 20s, but just wondering if anyone knows how they handle this? And I hope he goes to school, as UNC is a great education.

  • In reply to Bumsteer:

    He's not signed to a pro contract.

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