Playoff-minded Fire welcome Franco's experience, savvy
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Guillermo Franco’s expectations are tempered, but the former Mexican international said on Friday that he still has something to offer the Chicago Fire.
“I know I’m coming in toward the end of the season, and I don’t have a whole lot of time to catch up,” Franco (pictured above, right) said through a translator, shortly after his signing was announced. “It’s my expectation that I will contribute my experience with this team, and that’s what I’m here to do.”
The 35-year-old trained with the Fire early in the week and will play in the Fire’s Reserve League game against FC Dallas next Tuesday, Sept. 18, pending completion of his visa and transfer paperwork.
When he’s ready to contribute, coach Frank Klopas thinks the two-time World Cup veteran will bring different qualities than the Fire’s other two contributing forwards, Sherjill MacDonald and Dominic Oduro.
Klopas said it’s likely he’ll have both Oduro and Franco on the bench when the naturalized Mexican is deemed ready.
“That experience comes in handy when you go into games now that are tight, and teams don’t really give you a lot of space or opportunities,” Klopas said. “Oduro’s got a lot of pace – I don’t think he’s going to out-run Oduro, but maybe he’s better in the box. Just another dimension to use.”
In his 16-year career, Franco has played for Monterrey, Villarreal and West Ham, among other teams. His time with his most recent club, Pachuca, ended after he failed to score in 12 games.
Still, Pável Pardo, his former teammate on the Mexican national team, knows that Franco still brings something to the table.
“We’re looking for the playoffs, and in the end of the season, we need experienced guys,” the Fire midfielder (with Franco above, at left) told MLSsoccer.com. “He’s very physical, he’s very smart, an intelligent player. When you see the movement, when you see the technique, when you see he has a good header also, he’s going to help a lot.”
The Fire signed Pardo last July, when he, too, was 35, and the veteran helped the Fire to a 7-2-1 finish.
While Franco probably won’t start, Klopas is hoping the Fire’s fourth acquisition of a World Cup veteran in the last 13 months can help the Fire make a deep run in the playoffs.
“It was an opportunity and, I felt, a very good risk to take at this point,” Klopas said. “I’ve seen him in training, and his attitude is fantastic with the group. He’s a winner, and that experience he can bring on the pitch for us when we need him.”
His time with the Fire may not end in 2012. Franco didn’t rule out extending his deal into next year.
“The idea was for them to get to know my personality and for me to get to know them,” Franco said. “We’ll sit down at the end of the season and talk about what can happen next year.”