New Chicago Fire coach Wicky asks for patience
Raphael Wicky does not sound like a coach with a sense of urgency.
That's fitting, considering the Chicago Fire didn't hurry to find new soccer leadership this off-season.
Meeting the media Wednesday for the first time since the Fire hired him Dec. 27, Wicky made it clear he and new sporting director Georg Heitz will not rush to fill out the club's roster, which stands at just 19 players a few days into preseason training.
"It's not going to be done overnight," Wicky said a few times.
That's not a message fans want to hear. Not after a decade of misery.
"I don't say that we're not going to win overnight," Wicky said when pressed. "I'm saying to build a team and build something new takes some time. That is also the experience I have made.
"But still, like I said, we want to win and I am sure we're going to win games. Of course. I'm not going to try to be somehow passive or anything. I'm just saying -- and everyone who knows sports knows that -- it's not going to happen overnight."
In fact, Wicky enjoys the idea of having some flexibility in putting together a roster to his liking.
"I knew when I was approached and I also knew the roster and I saw there is a lot of positions open," he said. "But I never saw it as a negative. I saw it as a great opportunity to build something. ... I knew when I took the job that I'm going to need to be a little bit patient."
That's OK with defender Johan Kappelhof, the senior player on the roster entering his fifth season in Chicago.
"I'd rather them take time to sign the right players than move on too quickly," Kappelhof said of Heitz and Wicky. "I have my trust in them, and I'm sure it will be OK."
The most likely scenario goes something like this: Keep the playoff line within view through the first half of the season. Then add a couple of key acquisitions in the summer transfer window to make a late-season push for a tail-end Eastern Conference playoff berth.
"I'm hoping that we can find the players earlier," said veteran left back Jonathan Bornstein. "I'm hoping that they can find what they're looking for in this window. That they can come in maybe late in preseason only and then we can start the season off on the right foot.
"I think in this league in general it's integral to start well because the season is so long, if you start well you give yourself a good cushion to kind of build a rhythm."
It also might be integral to the Fire to start well if they want to convince fans to make the trek to Soldier Field. Especially if club management envisions significantly more than last year's league-low average of 12,324 fans in the 61,500-seat football stadium.
The regular season starts March 1 at Seattle.
• The Fire also announced Wednesday that tickets for the home opener March 21 at Soldier Field are now on sale.