Frank Yallop can't wait to get to Florida on Sunday, and it has nothing to do with the weather.
Well, maybe just a little.
Yallop, the first-year Chicago Fire coach and director of soccer, seems to understand two things about the roster he will take into the start of preseason training.
It's not bad, and it's not great.
"All along we've felt this team is close to being a good side," said Yallop, who met the media Friday at Toyota Park along with assistant coach C.J. Brown and technical director Brian Bliss.
"They won 14 games last year, which is good in our league. Conceded maybe too many goals. And I feel that straightaway we've addressed that. We picked up Lovel Palmer right away. And picking up Patrick (Ianni) and Jhon (Kennedy Hurtado), it helps us on that front. There may be some movement still with some players to make sure that we're nice and balanced."
Put another way, if the Fire can avoid last year's catastrophic start, it could be a good season that ends with a trip to the playoffs. MLS Cup might be a stretch in 2014, however, especially in light of the club's difficulties with the MLS salary cap.
"The cap itself was a challenge," Yallop said.
Much of that challenge will fall to Bliss, who will handle a lot of the off-field matters while Yallop is busy on the field.
"I'm going to assist Frank in formulating the roster, making sure we're cap compliant, working with the league on that, negotiating players' contracts, scouting, domestically and internationally," Bliss said. "All the things I've been doing the past few years obviously with Columbus."
Finding new talent will be a team effort, Bliss said.
"Everybody has a responsibility in that, Frank included, the assistant coaches included," Bliss added. "They use their resources, I use my resources. And that's some overlap there in terms of agents and people that we use to help provide us information. Boots on the ground is always good in terms of having people at events. I'm one guy; can't be everywhere.
"We anticipate hiring a few others once we get some of the first-team stuff shored up, some other guys who I think are going to be on board in roles in the scouting area. But I'm certainly not averse to getting on an airplane and going places and looking at players. However, we need to have a plan of action and are just not randomly looking at guys."
If the Fire can execute that plan -- add qualified scouts, diversify the player acquisition process, free up salary-cap space -- this technical staff can succeed. But they wouldn't mind if you show a little patience.
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