LEON: Fire will be bolstered by return of Friedrich and Pause
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- A week away from league action after a disappointing 4-1 defeat. The popular consensus would likely be to have a game right away to erase the sting of Sunday’s loss to Chivas USA, however, the Fire have a bye week, and another week of waiting before they resume league play against the New York Red Bulls at Toyota Park on Sunday, April 7.
With an injury-riddled roster, that’s probably a good thing according to Javier Leon, the club’s President of Soccer Operations.
“I think having a two-week break comes at a very good time for us,” he told Chicago-Fire.com Wednesday. "[We have] the ability to get a lot of the injured players back -- that’s going to be incredibly important.”
With all the team’s offseason acquisitions coming from within Major League Soccer, Frank Klopas’ side had a successful preseason, capping the month of February by winning the Carolina Challenge Cup.
Just as that success bore out though, the team would experience losses to veteran defender Arne Friedrich and club captain Logan Pause. Perhaps underestimated in the team’s drab 0-3-1 start is the amount of veteran presence that has been missing on the field at the start of the season.
Things are getting better. Pause made the 18 on Sunday while Friedrich returned from a rehab stint in Germany to train with the team for the first time in two weeks Wednesday morning.
“Arne [Friedrich] is a big part of our team, for him to be back with the possibility of training and being a part of the locker room, it’s a positive. It’s the same for the rest of the guys that have been out. Hopefully now we set the reset button and that phase is over with. We are going to move into a more positive phase.”
Confident in Frank Klopas
Leon made no bones about the fact that the club remains confident in Frank Klopas and his coaching staff, despite the difficult start.
“I firmly believe in having a coach that is so invested in the city,” said Leon. “Believe me no one feels worse than Frank Klopas in terms of the results thus far. He is so invested in the city, second he has so much invested in the team, being a part of it and the history he has. From that standpoint clearly he is focused on making the right adjustments to get us onto the right path."
Leon harkened back to 2011 when Klopas took over a much more transitional side from Carlos de los Cobos halfway through the season. At that point at the end of May the team had just one win from 11 games.
The Chicago-product took over the side, brought them to the final of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and within three points of an MLS Cup playoff berth.
“Frank took over that team and created a real focus. Gradually, it took him some time, but the team started performing. If he could do it at that time, the group that he has is certainly capable of doing it again.”