BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Chicago Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas was cautious from the get-go when the team brought in midfielder Sebastian Grazzini.
Klopas limited Grazzini's minutes at the start to integrate him with the team by midseason. But even still, Grazzini has endured setbacks -- the latest being a hamstring injury that kept him out of a 1-1 draw against the Houston Dynamo on Oct. 1 and limited him to the final minutes of Chicago's 2-0 loss to Seattle Sounders FC in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday.
"We pushed him the day before [the Open Cup], I talked to him and he said, 'Coach, I think I can give you 10 minutes,'" Klopas said. "My thought was, at that point, if we get to the second overtime to put him in and have him ready to take a PK, because he's one of our guys who's very good on dead balls.
"I want to put the guy on the field more than anything because he's a special player," Klopas said. "But you've also got to respect what the guy says, how he feels and the injury."
Chicago (7-8-16, 37 points) certainly needs Grazzini to be close to 100 percent with three matches remaining.
Plus, midfielder Marco Pappa will be absent for the Fire's upcoming match against FC Dallas on Wednesday at Toyota Park. Pappa joined the Guatemala national team as it prepares for a match against Belize on Tuesday. Pappa had an offensive awakening on Sept. 28 with a hat trick during the Fire's 3-0 road win over Real Salt Lake.
The Fire are six points behind both the New York Red Bulls and Houston Dynamo in the final gasp for a wild card spot. Grazzini's presence will be vital as clearly the team missed him during the majority of the Open Cup match.
"Not having a guy like Sebastian hurt us because he can get the ball in the final third and break the other team down individually, or with his passing," Klopas said. "Having another guy who can get the ball and hold it in situations would have been nice, but things happen. We can't dwell on the past. We've got to move forward and refocus our energy on making the playoffs."
"His creativeness, how he draws players and tries to free up other players, that was missing in the Seattle game, obviously," Fire forward Patrick Nyarko said. "We could have used him, absolutely. The coaching staff didn't want to risk it. He wasn't fit, and we thought other guys could step up. Unfortunately, that day it didn't work for us. But we're happy to get him back for the remainder of the season and hopefully help us for a playoff push. He's been huge for us."
Ferdinand just chatter: During the past several days, rumors were circulating about the possibility of Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand being linked to the Fire, particularly with his contract coming to a close soon.
The Fire have dismissed the validity of these reports and rumors, though Klopas will be screening for any phone calls from Man U.
"Ferdinand and Sir Alex [Ferguson], they have my number if he wants to come," Klopas said. "They can call me, but they haven't yet. That's all I can tell you. The door's open."
Beckerman headbutt costs two more: Real Salt Lake's Kyle Beckerman was handed down an additional two-game suspension by the MLS Disciplinary Committee for headbutting Fire midfielder Daniel Paladini on Sept. 28. Beckerman was issued a straight red card and served a one-game suspension during Salt Lake's Oct. 1 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy.