Fire's Klopas optimistic with team's chemistry
It's good for the boss to be happy, and Fire technical director Frank Klopas is happy with the early returns from preseason training.
"It's been a very good attitude with the guys, everybody's working very hard," Klopas said by telephone from Ave Maria, Fla. "It's a work in progress, but so far so good."
It was the theme for much of the conversation.
"The most important thing is to build a family in the beginning," Klopas said, adding he wants "to make sure that everyone buys in."
Perhaps that's a reaction to reports that last year's locker room was not the happiest in MLS, that many players didn't get along with coach Carlos de los Cobos and since-departed fitness coach Alvaro Briones.
"The chemistry has been very good," Klopas said. "I don't want to compare it to last year."
Of course good team chemistry is the American way, the MLS way. It's what coach Bob Bradley emphasizes with the national team, and considering no team with a Designated Player has won an MLS Cup, it seems to be a good thing to emphasize in the domestic league. The Fire has no DP on its roster now.
"The new guys have been fitting in very well with the rest of the group," Klopas said. "It's a more dynamic team, a younger team that has players that are experienced players."
There are plenty of new guys. There are 21 players signed, plus 10 trialists and two draft picks that are unsigned, for a roster that must be down to 30 by Tuesday. The Fire, however, might go with just 28.
New central defenders Josip Mikulic and Cory Gibbs are developing a partnership in front of goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
"It's getting better every day," Klopas said.
First-round draft pick Jalil Anibaba could play in central defense or on the right side, as he did in Wednesday's scrimmage against the Red Bulls.
"Jalil has been doing really well," Klopas said. "He has a lot of upside."
But where will the goals come from offensively?
"That's the question for every team in the world," Klopas said. "It's a team game, and everybody has to play their role.
"We're bringing some forwards in and we're relying on them to score goals, but it's the responsibility of the other guys on the field to provide service to them."
Those forwards are former Montevideo Wanderers teammates Gaston Puerari and Diego Chaves. Maybe one or both of them will be the next David Ferreira and become league MVP, or maybe the next Julio Martinez and be out of the league by July.
Corben Bone is another guy who will be expected to produce. The 2010 first-round draft pick did virtually nothing his rookie year, often looking lost. The team hopes his off-season trip to Europe along with Baggio Husidic and the rest of the Generation adidas group helped.
"He definitely has the ability," Klopas said. "Corben is a gifted player. He's very good with the ball, he can make that final pass, he's very quick. I think with him it's all about confidence."
Confidence. Attitude. Chemistry. Effort.
Words the Fire hopes to live by in 2011.
The Fire announced Tuesday that sideline reporter Amy Freeze will emcee the team's annual season kickoff luncheon March 14 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.
Tickets are $75 a person and tables are $700 each, for sale at chicago-fire.com, with proceeds going to benefit the Chicago Fire Foundation, the club's charitable arm.