EPL veteran Chimbonda hopes to earn Fire contract in Charleston
CHARLESTON, S.C. -- It’s not often you see a player that was part of a runners-up squad at the FIFA World Cup come across the team’s trialist list but that’s exactly what happened this week when defender Pascal Chimbonda’s name appeared.
Perhaps better known for his exploits in the English Premier League with Tottenham, Wigan, and Blackburn Rovers, Chimbonda comes into Fire training camp looking for a new opportunity in MLS after having most recently played with English Championship side Doncaster Rovers in April 2012.
“I’ve spent eight years in England,” Chimbonda told Chicago-Fire.com “I’ve had a good time and played well there but you also want a new chapter in your life. MLS was a league that I’ve always wanted to play in and the Fire gave me this opportunity to come and show my ability.”
Out of contract since last spring, the 33-year-old right back took the opportunity to play for the place of his birth, Guadeloupe, in last fall’s Caribbean Cup which served as qualifiers for the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
An overseas department of France, the island territory is ineligible to compete in World Cup qualifying but is a member of the Caribbean Football Union and has previously taken part in the past three CONCACAF Gold Cup tournaments.
Unfortunately for Chimbonda and his nation of birth, there won’t be a return to Gold Cup play this summer as Guadeloupe went 1-1-1 at last fall’s tournament.
“I played in France with the national team but I always wanted to play for my country. We were disappointed we didn’t reach the Gold Cup this year but in the future if they called me to play for them, I would always represent Guadeloupe.”
With those three matches last October having been the last competitive minutes he’s seen, Chimbonda admitted that he’s not at full fitness but is hopeful he can show enough during the team’s stay in Charleston to earn a roster spot.
"I've been working with trainers in England but I'm not at match fitness yet. With time in camp, I feel confident that my fitness will improve."
Fire fans will remember that the team signed defender Arne Friedrich days before the season started last year, despite the former German international having not played a competitive game for nearly a year.
Chimbonda’s inclusion in Fire camp has also served to make the situation at right back even more interesting. Converted midfielder Logan Pause has earned the majority of the first team minutes there while Jalil Anibaba and Steven Kinney remain options at the spot.
The prospect of bringing a player of Chimbonda’s pedigree for a look was too good for Frank Klopas to pass up but after just one training session, the third-year manager isn’t ready to make a full assessment.
“You can see he brings a lot of experience but we just need to see his mobility on the field,” Klopas said on his weekly conference call Thursday. “He will play in some games and we need to see that and also how he fits in within our group.”
As for Chimbonda, he comes in with the knowledge that he’s joining a strong team looking to build more off of last season’s playoff appearance.
“There are good players here from before and there are also some new players that are very good. In training, the mix is coming good. Last season the team made the playoffs and so with the players they’ve added, there is more quality and the team has a good chance to do even better in the league.
“I’m very pleased to be in camp and hopefully I can play in this team.”