On how things are looking overall and what’s been happening down in Ave Maria, Fla.:
“It’s very exciting for us to get going after a long preseason. Ave Maria has been a fantastic place for us in past years this is where we get things going for our first phase. Three, four days into it, everyone is upbeat, the attitude from the players has been really good. Our main focus during the first phase, more than anything, is just to get a good base of aerobic fitness. We’re working with bigger spaces, bigger numbers and longer duration of time when we’re playing and we’re doing everything through soccer exercises, soccer specific exercises to build endurance through playing, instead of just running without the ball. So that’s the main focus in this first phase. We have a couple practice games that will give us an opportunity to evaluate some of the players, the picks and supplemental guys, that we have here, and really make some decisions and try to only bring players that we feel, not just to add roster spots but really to add guys, even in those supplemental or apprentice spots, that we feel in this environment, in one or two years, can be in a position to help the team. That’s mostly the focus in the first phase and obviously the second phase will get more into tactical work and stuff like that. The first phase here in Florida is more to get a good base of aerobic fitness so we can push the guys even more in the second phase. The third phase we’ll get more into playing and on a fitness level to play 90 minutes.”
On the situation of the left midfield position with the possible move of Alvaro Fernandez:
“Obviously we’re always going to be looking at different options but I do feel that within our group we have players that have the flexibility to play different spots. We have Alex that can play the wide spot. You have guys like Chris Rolfe who has played out wide at times, also with Wells Thompson. We’re always looking to see if there are opportunities to make our team better but we also feel that we have players with depth in our own team that have the flexibility to play in those spots. That’s why I think its important through this preseason, the six weeks that we have the opportunity through games and in training to put players in those roles and see how they gel with the guys. I do feel we have players that can play out there but if there are opportunities that come up within the league or outside we’re going to look at those too.”
On drafting Caleb Konstanski with the 68th overall pick in the 2013 MLS Supplemental Draft:
“We’ve seen IU play quite a few times. He was the captain of the national championship team and he brings a lot of leadership qualities. He’s a very good athlete. Obviously he needs work technically and with his feet and that’s one of the things we want to see as the game speeds up and see if in our training camp he can adapt to that. But he can play multiple roles. He’s played in the middle but also in the back and also out wide on the right because he’s a good athlete and a competitor. This will give us a good picture when we bring him in. he’s arriving today along with the other supplemental picks and will give us a good opportunity to see him in a much higher level and the speed of play is obviously different. We know the kid well, we’ve talked to his coach, seen him play a lot and the one thing is he’s a great athlete and a great competitor and it’ll be great to see in this environment how he’s able to adapt. That’s why this phase is important to have the opportunity to bring in and look at players and make decisions.”
On the midfield competition and how Logan Pause’s role has been affected by the new acquisitions:
“We felt that that was an area in the midfield that we needed to address and I think we brought some players that have a lot of experience and are very good players in this league. I think they bring something different but that’s why everyone is here in camp. We have six weeks now where we’ve brought quality players in but a lot is going to be decided by what takes place in the next six weeks. WE feel very good with the depth, the competition is very good and the players now, through these practice games, are really going to take the next steps. In these next six weeks, through training and through games, those decisions will be answered for all of us. Obviously, more than anything, the important thing is that we do have depth. Logan is a very good player but we also have other very good players in that spot that provide depth and competition and also have the flexibility to play different roles and positions on different parts of the field.
On the importance of a full preseason for the strike duo of Chris Rolfe and Sherjill MacDonald:
“It’s important. I think with the core group we come into it with a very good base with the additions that we made, I think with the guys that we added from within the league the transition is always much easier. When you have guys from the beginning now with six weeks is where you build a lot of continuity. It’s important, not only in the first phase but in the second phase, where we’ll get into a lot more playing and a lot more tactical work and developing understanding and chemistry, but to have the opportunity from the beginning to continue what we had towards the end of last season, I think that’s only going to make things better. I feel good that we have almost the whole group here together starting to work from day one, especially now when you look at last year to now, last year was nine weeks of preseason and this year its six. The first game is right around the corner so the continuity helps a lot.”
On which of the trialists and reserve players have impressed early on in training camp:
“It’s too early, it’s three, four days in. the one thing I can say is that I think everyone has come in, we provided the players with an offseason program with the goal for them to come back and report for day one because obviously they know that there are expectations and our goals are going to be higher, and so are theirs. So I think with that the sacrifices and the work you do and the preparation that you put in has got to increase. Everyone has come in where they should be based on what our fitness coach Tony [Jouaux] gave them in the offseason to work on. The guys are ready. The attitude has been fantastic. It’s early on. It’s three four days. It’s kind of hard for me to tell you right now. Everyone’s still going 100 miles per hour but it’s a long process and you’ll see more as the guys get heavy legs and a little more tired, now the opportunity where you’ll see from a mental standpoint who can focus and concentrate. That’s been the focus for us from day one that they understand that its’ a long process, it’s a long season and the work starts from day one. What you do every day is very important for us to be able to reach the goals that we set at the end of the year. We can’t let one day go by without a quality training session. We constantly push the guys, we constantly tell them that it’s very important that in every drill that we do that they’re focused and concentrated. Whether is 60 or 90 minutes, it has to be there in training because that’s where you get better. It’s not a light switch were you turn it on come game time. It’s a process through preseason. it’s a process thought the whole week. As a player, the confidence comes because you are prepared to play well. It’s early but I can tell you that everyone is very focused, determined, excited and very committed to give everything they have in order for us to reach our goals and that’s been fantastic. It’s early on but I know it’s going to be like that throughout the year because we brought in the kind of players who have a lot of good soccer qualities and are very good players but also have a tremendous attitude, and positive attitude, a winning mentality and more than anything they’re honored and proud to be part of this organization.”
On the opportunity for Corben Bone to train with Atletico Madrid and how his role changes compared to last year:
“I think a lot of times with players, he graduated from [Generation Adidas] status, sometimes there’s a lot of pressure on those players. It’s up to Corben. When you see him at practice, he’s a kid that has a lot of ability. He’s fast, technical, this or that, but that has to translate in a game. I’ve talked to him many times, myself and the other coaches, to give him a lot of encouragement and to be positive with him. He has to take the opportunities that he gets and make the best of them. He has to be the one to believe in himself and have the confidence because we believe in him. We’ve always worked with him, always tried to give him the confidence that he needs but maybe right now, graduating from Generation Adidas and not having all that pressure, maybe he’s going to come out and not have that pressure on him and with the opportunities can show the quality that he has as a player, the ones that we saw in him. When you do see him in training, he’s a player that could be a very good player in this league. Now that has got to translate into real games and he’s got to take advantage of the opportunities that he gets.”
On bringing in MLS veterans Jeff Larentowicz, Joel Lindpere and Maicon Santos and how they’re fitting in with the team:
“It’s early but I think they’ve come in and they’ve adopted and fit in well really well with the group. I think they’re very focused and guys that we knew what we were getting. Obviously they’re very good players and have been leaders on their teams and they’ve come in here and continued to work very hard in training sessions and earned their respect from that side from everyone else. They’re very good players and good characters. I think their ability to work very hard and give everything on the field and earn everyone’s respect, I think is important and that’s what they’ve done. The transition has been smooth and easy.”
Feelings on joining the Chicago Fire?
"I’m extremely delighted to be drafted by the Fire. I feel it’s a golden opportunity for me to play under better conditions and show what I can do in MLS."
What are the strong suits of your game?
"I think my strengths are my speed, ability and technique. I feel like I have a lot to offer in those areas."
On coming from Cameroon…
"The training conditions I’ve had to play under in Cameroon aren’t as good as in Chicago where they have top facilities and a great stadium. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to play in that stadium."
On youth international experiences with Cameroon U-20's
"I feel playing with the Cameroonian team at the U-20 World Cup raised my profile a bit and gave me something more to build towards. Representing your nation in a world championship is an amazing thing and I was very proud to play a part in all four games."
On his combine performance…
"I did feel that I had a strong combine. I came in off of an 18-hour flight and felt a little tired in the second half of games but I think I did very well to prove my abilities at the combine."
His thoughts on joining the Fire…
“I’m happy for a new challenge,” Larentowicz told Chicago-Fire.com Wednesday night. “It feels good to go to a place where you’re in the plans. Frank has been very forthright in coming after and it’s something I look forward to being a part of.”
On his contentious years against the Fire…
"In the past in my time in New England the Fire were always our biggest rivals. We were very similar, very competitive teams that were hard-nosed. Its just kind of the nature of things that both teams had wanted to win in the past but now I’m part of the Fire and I still have that same competitive spirit that’s going to come and work for Chicago."
On competition in central midfield…
"I’ll be competing for a spot and its an opportunity to come in and show that I deserve to be in the lineup and that’s what I expect. I know those guys from playing against them – they’re all good players and I look forward to competing for that spot."
On ability to stay fit throughout the years…
"The way I look at seasons and playing is the more time you can be available and give the coach the option of playing you, the better off you’re going to be and the more opportunity for good things to happen. I think over the past seven years I’ve been able to do that."
On being part of championship teams in New England and Colorado…
"On all the teams I’ve been on it was never that they depended on me but it was more of a collective thing and the way I view how I play and what I try to do. The Fire are a playoff team and always in contention. I hope to add to that and be a piece that helps take the team to the next level."
About this time last year I got Patrick Nyarko's pretty clear recollections of his 2008 MLS SuperDraft experience. I followed up a year later with some more in depth (and funny) questions about how he prepared personally for the day itself.
Jeff Crandall: How did you decide what you were going to wear to the Draft?
Patrick Nyarko: (Laughs) Back in 2008 it was easy enough. I just called my mom and asked her what kind of suit I should wear and I don’t think I had any say in what it was…she picked it all out. I didn’t mind because it made it all easier.
JC: What did you eat for breakfast that morning?
PN: I was actually supposed to get to the hotel the night before but it snowed heavily that night and so I drove up early in the morning and caught up with some of the other guys. I think I just had a regular buffet breakfast served up by the hotel – scrambled eggs, waffles, that kind of stuff.
JC: What thoughts were going through your head when your name was called eighth overall?
PN: It’s probably the same for a lot of people but my main concern was not tripping when I got to the stage like Austin Berry did last year. After that it was about who I would be shaking hands with first on the stage. But it was really just don’t do anything stupid – every step of the way I made sure I didn’t fall.
JC: What advice would you give your future teammate that gets drafted by the Fire on Thursday?
PN: The work starts right now. You’ve worked hard to get to this spot – to be invited to the draft and have your name called -- that’s a lot of fun. After that it’s a lot of hard work, moving up from the college to pro level there’s a lot more responsibility. As long as you’re willing to work hard and with the coaches, you’ll be fine.
JC: When you signed your contract with the league, what was the first thing you went out and bought?
PN: I think I bought a Mac Book. I had a regular computer before so I got a Mac. I’m not saying it was an upgrade but that’s what I got... It was great.
On Monday I wrote a piece with Wells Thompson reflecting on his experience of getting heckled by Fire fans at the 2007 MLS SuperDraft. Perhaps more importantly, we also talked about the experience and what it meant for him to get drafted.
Wells is a talker and gave some good answers to a few other questions I couldn’t fit in the story. Those are below…
What advice would you give to the players that will be selected in Thursday’s SuperDraft?
"What’s so encouraging is when you look in the league and look at a lot of guys that have succeeded and done well – Jeff Larentowicz comes to mind because I played with him for so long in New England and Colorado. Chris Wondolowski is another name. They both came through the Supplemental Draft and have had fantastic careers. There are a lot of big names that have succeeded and done well in the league after being picked at that stage.
"When I look at my situation, I was very fortunate to be selected by New England. At the time they needed an outside midfielder and the coaches were keen on the type of player and person I was. To a certain extent, it doesn’t matter where you get selected in the draft. When you go into training camp, everyone’s pretty much starting in the same place. Everyone has a clean slate and it’s up to you to prove your worth.
"The wisdom I could give kids is no matter where you’re drafted, go in and work hard because there are so many success stories of guys that were taken very low or not taken at all that have gone on to do big things in MLS."
To go from a college player with few if any accolades to the fifth overall selection in the SuperDraft, you must have raised your stock at the MLS Combine. What are your thoughts on that event?
“Yeah I did okay but the combine is such a different thing. Guys are getting together for just a weekend without practice. It’s not the fairest assessment of a player’s talents in my opinion. Your college career is probably the best judgment still on how a player would do in the league.
"What you can take a lot from those combines is seeing guys that don’t shy away from the big stage and wanting to continue to prove to coaches and other players that they do belong in the league. For me it was a confidence thing -- I went down to the combine and realized I was as good, if not better than a lot of these players and I think that confidence showed throughout that weekend."
...defender Carlos Bocanegra brings to end his four-year stay with the Chicago Fire by signing with English Premier club Fulham FC on this day in 2004.
Arguably the best defender in Chicago Fire history, Bocanegra was a two-time MLS Defender of the Year and League Best XI selection (2002, 2003) as well as being the first Fire player to claim MLS Rookie of the year in 2000 and helped the club to three domestic titles (2000, 2003 U.S. Open Cup, 2003 Supporters Shield) as well as an additional two finals appearances (2000, 2003 MLS Cup).
Bocanegra was one of just three defenders named to last year's #Fire15 player's list along with former teammats C.J. Brown and Lubos Kubik.
At the time of his Fire departure, Bocanegra had only just begun to break into Bruce Arena’s U.S. Men’s National Team squad, with the future captain scoring four goals in his first full campaign for the Stars and Stripes in 2003.
With the UCLA product proving his worth for both club and country, Fulham signed Bocanegra on a free transfer (in the same window that future Fire forward Brian McBride arrived at Craven Cottage) and the two formed the basis for a long-term American occupancy of the West London club.
He would parlay his form at Fulham into making the 2006 U.S. World Cup team and while his time there would come to an end, Bocanegra was eventually named as new U.S. captain when former Fire coach Bob Bradley took the national team reins in 2007.
Moving to a less traditional American soccer destination with French clubs Stade Rennes (2008-10), Bocanegra led the U.S. to the Round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa before moving to St. Etienne following the tournament.
A move to Scottish giants Glasgow Rangers would follow but after the side went into administration this past summer, whispers of the former Fire defender’s MLS return could be heard league-wide before he eventually went on loan to Spanish Segunda side Racing Santander.
Having now a decade of national team experience under his belt, the 33-year-old center back sits tied with Paul Caligiuri for sixth all-time on the national appeance list at 110 and is has scored more international goals (14) than any defender in U.S. history.
With his time for the national team and career winding down, a return to MLS could still be in his future. Remember, returning to Chicago for a U.S. friendly vs. Poland in October 2010, Bocanegra was quoted as saying this…
“This is my first choice. You never know how it works with (Major League Soccer) and allocations, but I love this city. For me, it would be cool to play for one team my whole career in MLS. I would like to come back to Chicago."
WATCH: Bocanegra Named to #Fire15
The 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year award just wasn’t enough for Fire defender Austin Berry.
The now second-year MLS back liner garnered another honor last week when he returned to high school alma mater Summit Country Day School in Cincinnati where his #21 jersey was retired during halftime of the basketball team’s game vs. Seven Hills Academy.
The ceremony marked the first time the school had ever retired a number for the soccer team.
A 2007 graduate of the school, Berry was an Ohio All-State selection as well as being named Cincinnati Player of the Year during his senior season.
“Nothing Austin does surprises me anymore,” said high school coach Barnard Baker. “There are a lot of coaches in this area that say they got him to where he is today and it’s not true. Austin got himself there.
“He’s worked harder than anyone I’ve ever seen and the cool thing about it all is he hasn’t changed who he is. He’s still a great kid who continues to want to prove people wrong.”
On Monday, I rang up the Fire's latest addition midfielder Joel Lindpere.
While you should definitely read this story talking about his desire to move from New York to Chicago, I've also included some other quotes below...
What are your thoughts on the Chicago Fire coming off of last year?
"I think the team is getting stronger day-by-day and I’m just pleased to see it. They have a good crowd, good coach and good team so it wasn’t difficult to make my choice. I’m happy to join the club and I’d like to give something more to it.
"I think every player is capable of making their team stronger and so I want to give something towards the team’s improvement. They have guys in the club that have been in the U.S. National team and it shows in the quality they had last season."
With 97 out of a possible 98 MLS regular season appearances for New York, you've played in more games than any other MLS player the last three seasons. What do you have to say about your health and consistency to see the field?
"I’ve really been trying to be smart so I’ve had injury issues and I’m really trying to avoid hard fields and artificial grounds but I’m trying to take part in every training session, it doesn’t matter how.
"For every player the most important thing is to play games. To be fit you need to practice but sometimes you need to be smart to avoid all these injuries and happenings. I don’t know how its been possible but the last two seasons I took part in every single MLS game. Last year I was the only one to take part in 37 games [regular season and playoffs] and it was the same in 2011. Nobody can say I'm not giving my all to be on the field every game.
"The thing is, I just want to be useful for the team and if I can give even just a couple minutes for the team rather than push too hard and be injured, then I think its smarter to be fit and give something to the team. I think I’ve been good at it and that’s the way I should continue."
You tallied three goals in your first four matches against the Fire... I think we're all glad you're now on our side...
"(Laughs) It doesn’t matter where or who you score against so long as you score. I’ve scored some important goals and one of them was against Chicago in the opening of Red Bull Arena [in 2010].
"I’ve been scoring goals against different teams and then its good now I can try to score for them. This must be part of the reason for my move."
What have you taken away in your early discussions with Frank Klopas?
"My aim in leaving Red Bull was to play centrally and I know that I have a partner in the midfield that I would love to play with and if we find communication, I know I can play really well in the heart of midfield.
"I really think Frank welcomes me to the club as a central midfielder and that’s my wish and reason to join the club. That’s the thing I was missing at Red Bull and I’m so happy that if the coach sees me in this position that I’m ready to take the challenge."
WATCH: Lindpere scores first MLS goal vs. Fire at Red Bull Arena – 3/27/2010
Atletico came away with a 1-1 draw away to bottom-of-the-table Mallorca this past weekend. After going up 1-0 through Raul Garcia in the 72nd minute, Mallorca equalized in the 87th through Kevin.
Atletico Madrid take a short break from league action Thursday when they pay a visit to Getafe for the second leg of their Copa del Rey tie in which los Rojiblancos 3-0 on aggregate.
Now sitting 11 points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona, Atletico will look to close the gap when they welcome Real Zaragoza to the Calderon this Sunday.
Los Aguilas opened the 2013 Clausura campaign with a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over Monterrey Saturday afternoon in Mexico City. Ecuadorian midfielder Walter Avoyi put the visitors ahead from the penalty spot in the 15th minute before America’s Jesus Molina equalized in the 39th.
With the match looking like it would end in a 1-1 draw, America was granted a late penalty kick which Rubens Sambueza converted in the 94th minute to clinch the three points.
The club will hope to continue it’s one-hundred percent record when they visit Jaguares this Friday.
Turkish side Besiktas most recently fell 2-0 to German side Wolfsburg in a friendly match this past Sunday. They’ll continue their winter break before returning to Super Lig action January 19 in a derby match against Istanbul BB.
Raja Casablanca maintained their GNF league lead with a convincing 4-1, win over Difaa El Jadida this past Sunday. This upcoming Sunday, they will try to keep their slim league lead against lowly Raja Beni Mellal.
First, a warm welcome to the newest member of the Chicago Fire, midfielder Joel Lindpere.
The move to acquire the Estonian international was met with pretty high praise from yours truly, considering all that was exchanged was an international roster spot. Also consider that the guy has scored a few goals against the Fire since coming to MLS (three to be exact and four if you count a preseason goal he scored back in 2011).
That aside, here are five other reasons I can really appreciate the move for the club's latest addition...
- He’s the very definition of an iron man – In a total of 98 MLS regular season matches he’s been eligible for over the last three seasons, Lindpere has appeared in exactly 97 games, the most of any MLS player in that time span. That also includes goalkeepers.
Players on the current Fire roster with comparable MLS appearances over the last three MLS seasons: Dominic Oduro (93 with Chicago/Houston), Patrick Nyarko (91, Chicago), Logan Pause (87, Chicago) and Wells Thompson (79, Colorado/Chicago).
- There’s a certain swagger he has… He looks intimidating and the Estonian international has a certain bite that backs up the way he carries himself. His aggression and ability in the attack reminds me a bit of Dema Kovalenko, though with a few less yellow cards.…
- He has a pretty powerful left foot – Watch the video below. He’s a threat in crossing the ball but can also unleash a pretty powerful shot. Combine this acquisition with that of Maicon Santos and the power in attack has been greatly upgraded.
- Competition (and rest) in the midfield – The biggest knock against the Fire in 2012 was the perceived lack of enough squad rotation. By season’s end, the team looked a little bit tired and perhaps slightly predictable. With the likes of Nyarko, Alvaro Fernandez, Alex and the potential return of Corben Bone, the attacking midfield options available to Klopas in times of heavy fixture congestion have been upgraded as well.
- Good Results from transactions with Red Bull – Back in 2007 when Fire owner Andrew Hauptman filed tampering charges with New York relating to the Juan Carlos Osorio affair, the team received the Red Bulls’ first round selection in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft which the team used to select the-ever dangerous Patrick Nyarko.
Just about a year ago, the Fire traded the rights of defender Wilman Conde to Red Bull in exchanged for an undisclosed, but rumored to be high amount of allocation money that presumably went towards the acquisitions of defender Arne Friedrich and forward Chris Rolfe.
Not a bad track record…
WATCH: Joel Lindpere Highlights