Fire excited over Castillo, know there's more to do

Chicago players hope Mexican striker will help spark rest of team

BRIDGEVIEW Ill. – The 2010 season hasn’t gone according to plan for the Chicago Fire. Inconsistent and – at times – ugly play has the 2009 Eastern Conference finalists on the outside of the playoff picture looking in at the season’s midway point.

That’s not exactly familiar territory for Chicago. The club has made the postseason in all but one of its 12 seasons of existence and needs to improve if it wants to maintain that nearly flawless record.

Fortunately for the Fire, they’re getting a major reinforcement at just the right time. Nery Castillo, the 26-year-old Mexican forward, became the club’s second Designated Player on Saturday, something that has Fire players excited.

“It’s exciting,” said defender C.J. Brown – the last remaining Fire original – on Saturday night. “You look for a new guy who’s fresh to come in and, hopefully, spark the group. It’s going to be exciting for Chicago.

“The signing is to help the team get better and I think bringing him in will do that. And it’ll also spark the rest of the players to fight harder and keep their spots, so I think it’s a good thing. We need some fresh feet out there.”

Brown has been impressed with the little he has seen of the Mexican National Team veteran’s game.

“I watched him in the [2007] Gold Cup,” Brown said. “He was awesome. I haven’t seen him in a while but if he can bring what he brought then, it’s going to be great for us.”

Brown hopes Castillo can inject the team with a spirit that has been lacking in 2010.

“A Mexican player coming in always brings a lot of fans, so hopefully that brings a little more spirit to the team,” Brown said. “[Maybe it’ll] brighten the Fire a little bit.”

Though he’s excited, Brown understands it will take more than one player to right the Fire’s ship.

“You definitely cannot depend on him to come and change it around,” Brown said.

Fellow defender Wilman Conde echoed that sentiment.

“Just as important for him to do his part, it’s important for us to work as a team,” Conde said. “[We need] to do our duty individually. When that is done, we’ll be in better shape.”

Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at sam.h.stejskal@gmail.com