Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Fire 'not happy' nearing midway point
By Charlie Corr
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The Chicago Fire are an under-.500 club (4-5-5) that posted only one non-league victory this season in a disappointing showing at the U.S. Open Cup, Sister Cities and SuperLiga.
Chicago made some needed personnel changeover with the departure of several key players following 2009. But up to this stage, things have not panned out.
"It's hard to try to keep the group, because you have a salary cap, people have other dreams and goals," Fire technical director Frank Klopas said. "You attempt to keep guys here, but it's not always easy. It happened to us, obviously. We had a very good team in the past two seasons, and we fell short."
The new group, however, has not performed well. Forward Collins John has only one goal, Salvadoran midfielder Julio Martinez was signed and released, Salvadoran defender Deris Umanzor struggled early but has looked more comfortable of late -- particularly in the midfield, and the handling of the team's goalkeeper situation before the season was puzzling.
With the turnaround, it was expected that it might take some time for everything to fit into place. But the Fire were not expecting a middle-of-the-pack performance in the Eastern Conference.
"Of course we're not happy," Klopas said. "I think there have been good moments in games where we've played very well. In every game, we're in the game. We have moments where we create opportunities, played well, stayed organized as a group and created a lot of chances. We just haven't been able to put them away."
Chicago is attempting to compensate for some moves that have not worked out through 14 regular-season games. The Fire recently signed Mexican Nery Castillo as a designated player and traded midfielder Justin Mapp to the Philadelphia Union for allocation money.
"Justin was not a starting player for the team," Klopas said. "I think we all can talk about the talent and potential, but at some point I think the last couple years, when you see it the production just hasn't been there. And it's the same this year. He's a great guy off the field and a great personality, but I just felt that we needed to move on."
With an open roster spot now available, Klopas is not tipping his hand as to specific future signings or another designated player. But he does want to see some versatility in the personnel decision.
"We need more players that can be dynamic going forward and give us more options," Klopas said. "Also guys within this league that you feel can play different positions and adjust, whether they can play up top, you can move them in the middle, just to be more flexible like that."
An array of injuries also set back this club. In fact, the Fire roster was limited to 15 players for Chicago's final SuperLiga match against Pumas UNAM, forcing head coach Carlos de los Cobos to dig deep into his bench.
"You've seen a lot of maturity and growth with a lot of players that have gotten opportunities for the first time to play, and have stepped up," Klopas said. "And that I'm confident about and I feel good about."
Offer in Conde's hands: The Fire made and extension offer to defender and 2010 MLS All-Star Wilman Conde, and Klopas said it is now in Conde's hands. "It's a great situation here. We made him a very good offer and we'd love to have him here," Klopas said. "But it's his decision. This club has been great for him, and I think he understands it. He likes Chicago. We've done our part."
Nyarko working his way back for L.A.: Midfielder Patrick Nyarko was out for several weeks because of concussion-like symptoms, forcing him to literally take a three-week break with no workouts of any kind. But he resumed training Monday and is confident that he is on course for Sunday's Galaxy matchup. "I completed all the fitness drills [Monday] and came back [Tuesday]. My touches were decent enough, not great," Nyarko said. "As expected, I'm getting back into it, and hopefully the next couple of days I can fine-tune my touch and get a little bit of fitness back for the weekend."