The Chicago Fire did not make Sebastian Grazzini available to the media after Wednesday's training session, a decision that may speak volumes about the Argentine midfielder's future with the club.
Grazzini's one-year contract expires at the end of the month, and if the club doesn't pick up its option to renew, Grazzini would have as few as two games left in the Fire's No. 10 kit. He might be making way for a new acquisition.
Contact information ( * required )
"There's a time to make those decisions, and the time hasn't come. We haven't passed that time yet," said Fire coach Frank Klopas, preferring to talk about Saturday's home game against Columbus (7:30 p.m., Channel 5.2). " ... There's not much to say right now."
Grazzini, 31, had a beautiful assist on the Fire's first goal in Sunday's 3-1 victory against New York, then came out of the game in the 61st minute for Chris Rolfe with the score tied 1-1 after stumbling over the ball a couple of times in the second half. He didn't look happy about leaving the game, throwing something at the bench before sitting down.
"Why? Because the guy was tired," Klopas said of the substitution. " ... There's nothing behind it, if you're thinking I took him out because something about his contract. If you saw the game, we took him because players cannot play great every game. He wasn't sharp, he was losing balls, he looked tired. It was a very hot day, and we took him out and the game changed."
His teammates are focusing on the season and letting Grazzini and the front office figure out the contract situation.
"There's no questioning his ability," captain Logan Pause said. "He's a very, very gifted player and creates a lot for our team."
The Fire already has signed Brazilian midfielder Alex, who could fill Grazzini's role. Either way, Pause said, the players will keep their goals intact.
"Listen, life goes on," the Fire veteran said. "If that were to be the case, our team would continue. It's not like we would pack up shop and go somewhere else. It's part of the business."
The Fire has all eight of its international player slots filled, so a Grazzini exit would open a spot for a new international player, and Klopas, who missed some training last week for a scouting trip, said he expects to sign someone during the international transfer period that opens June 27.
The club has two Designated Player spots open for high-priced players after last week's revelation that Major League Soccer determined reserve forward Federico Puppo is a DP because of the transfer fee the Fire paid.
The league's decision seemed to surprise Klopas, who expressed support for the 25-year-old Uruguayan despite playing Puppo only 216 MLS minutes so far and getting just 1 assist.
"To tell you the truth I heard it from you guys and from (the Fire communications staff)," Klopas said. "It is what it is. To get a guy, young like that, it's still a bargain for me."
According to the MLS Players Union, Puppo has a $100,000 base salary. Grazzini makes $50,400, according to the MLSPU.
"It's my first time far from my country, so it's a very good experience," said Puppo, adding he is happy with the Fire and waiting patiently for his chance to play more. "I am working hard day by day, so I trust in this, and I am working hard day by day to have more minutes."
Defender Arne Friedrich trained with his teammates again Wednesday, but he doesn't expect to play Saturday against Columbus.
"No," he said, explaining he's still working on his fitness but the hamstring that has sidelined him for six weeks felt good. "Maybe next week."
If Wednesday's training is any indication, when Friedrich returns rookie Austin Berry would remain in the lineup alongside him instead of second-year defender Jalil Anibaba.
Friedrich, a former German international, was asked how he thinks his countrymen will fare against Greece on Friday in the European Championships quarterfinals.
"Are you Greek?" he asked with a smile. "Then I can be honest. I guess we will definitely win the game."
Friedrich said he made a bet with Klopas on the game, with the loser buying dinner.
"I guess if Greece wins I have to go to Greektown," he said jokingly. "It would be definitely embarrassing, and maybe I should consider to go back to Germany."
Give it a rest:
The coaches told forward/midfielder Patrick Nyarko to take a day off from training to rest his sore hamstring. It came as a pleasant surprise to the hardworking Nyarko, who expects to play Saturday.
• Follow Orrin's soccer reports on Twitter @orrinsoccer.