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updated: 2/2/2012 6:05 PM

Big-money guys in MLS not be-all, end-all

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  • Chicago Fire head coach Frank Klopas likes the makeup of his team right now.

      Chicago Fire head coach Frank Klopas likes the makeup of his team right now.
    Associated Press

 
 

Michael Ballack is not coming to Chicago, and Didier Drogba is highly unlikely to put on Fire red.

In fact, the Fire doesn't seem in a hurry to spend big money on what MLS calls a "designated player," a David Beckham-like signee whose contract can exceed the league maximum and only partially counts against the salary cap.

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MLS allows each team three DPs. The Fire has none now and hasn't had a DP since Nery Castillo and Freddie Ljungberg left after the 2010 season.

"We're always looking for players who can help the team," Fire coach Frank Klopas said via teleconference from Florida when the subject of a DP came up. "We've got a good group of players in, got a lot of depth in the team."

In other words, don't plan on it.

"More than anything I'm very happy with the progress we've made with this first phase (of preseason training) coming to a close," Klopas said as the team prepared to leave Florida on Friday for Saturday's exhibition match against Honduran side Real Espana in New Orleans. "I'm always looking for a player who can help the team. We never stop looking for players like that."

Klopas has made it clear he's not going to bring in a big-name, big-money player just for the sake of doing so. Every player has to fit into the Fire's scheme without disrupting team chemistry.

Teams have won in MLS without DPs. In fact, until the Los Angeles Galaxy did it in November, no team had won MLS Cup with a DP.

A familiar face:

Ivan Guerrero played 74 games for the Fire during the 2005, 2006 and 2007 seasons, scoring 3 goals and assisting on 16. He's in camp with the Fire again as a trialist, looking to rejoin the club at age 34, having moved his family to Chicago and acquiring a green card.

"He was just technically a strong player, pretty much a two-way player who could play left back, left mid, brought a lot of energy," coach Frank Klopas said of the 5-foot-7 Honduran's previous stint in Chicago. "I thought he brought a lot to the table."

Klopas called it a "no-brainer" to give Guerrero a tryout.

"He's a little bit older, but he brings a lot of experience and is in tip-top condition," Klopas said.

"I feel that he's done pretty well."

Berry good:

First-round draft pick Austin Berry is coming along nicely at center back, Klopas said.

"It's going to take him a period of adjustment. He has some very good qualities as a player," Klopas said, noting Berry's ability in the air specifically.

"He works at the game, he's very focused, he's a winner. He's almost a soccer junkie."

Getting ready for Phase 2:

In its first two exhibition games, the Fire played three groups of players about 30 minutes apiece. With Saturday's match in New Orleans, Klopas will start using players 45 minutes at a time to start to build up the regulars' fitness.

The Fire returns to Chicago on Sunday for a few days before heading to Ventura, Calif., for the second phase of training Feb. 8-18.

Phase 3 is Feb. 21-March 6 at the Carolina Challenge Cup in Charleston, S.C.

• Follow Orrin's soccer reports via Twitter @orrinsoccer.

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