Monday afternoon's preseason friendlies marked two weeks that the Fire have been in 2010 preseason camp under the tutelage of head coach Carlos de los Cobos. The new manager has spent that time learning his player's strengths and weakness while implementing new coaching and training techniques in combination with an overall change in environment to a club that has come up just short in recent years.
How has it been so far?
"I am content with the positive response that I have from all the players, veterans and trialists alike," said de los Cobos. "We've adjusted very well for the short time period and I am convinced that the team will take its best shape little by little."
The former Mexican international has brought a more playful aura to the training pitch since taking the helm at the beginning of the year. Commanding respect by letting his resume speak for itself, the players seem to be responding well to their new manager.
"The transition for everyone has been smooth," said veteran goalkeeper Jon Busch. "Getting into line with the philosophies that he and the Professor [Alvaro Briones] bring to the team has been different. Both are demanding, but in a good way -- the players see the reasons behind what we're doing in training and it results in a more positive and focused attitude throughout the team."
Though not fluent in English, de los Cobos has done a good job communicating with the players, getting his point across while learning more of the language. Assistant Equipment Manager Allan Araujo has served as the translator for both coaches, though he sticks more closely to Briones.
"Language has not been a barrier," said de los Cobos. "My English is better than I usually give myself credit for and football is an international language anyway. It's nice because I've improved a lot since being here and I feel more and more comfortable communicating in the language."
Midfielder Logan Pause, one of the veteran players in camp, has been impressed with the new leadership at the top, specifically in terms of bringing guys together.
"This has been one of the more exciting preseasons of my career," said Pause. "Obviously things change from year-to-year. Players always come and go, coaches sometimes as well. Carlos is a great communicator no matter what the language. I think that his lack of fluency might be helpful, he seems more clear and to the point. Overall though, he has brought a renewed sense of commitment and unity to our locker room and the players are feeding off of his leadership."
Finding success in new situations is something de los Cobos has become accustomed to. In his previous job with the Salvadoran national team, the new Fire manager was charged with rebuilding a program that had been left in shambles for much of the decade. Making the situation more difficult was the national rivalry that existed between the country of his birth and El Salvador -- becoming the first Mexican to take over los Cuscatlecos.
"The beginning of my time with the national team was tough because there is a lot of differing sentiment between the two countries," he said. "As time went on, I was able to convince the players and then the fans that with hard work we could achieve what I wanted and with that, results and good soccer came along the way. Coming into this job, the main thing I took from my experience there is that as a coach, it is imperative to earn the confidence of the players, because at the end, they are the most important part of this game."
As the first leg of the 2010 preseason tour winds down, de los Cobos has earned the confidence of the Fire players. The first team returns to Chicago Thursday night and then depart for Guadalajara, Mexico for the second leg of preseason on Sunday.
"We're happy with what we've seen in Phoenix and I think Carlos and his staff have done a great job so far in beginning to shape a team that can do very well in MLS this season," said Technical Director Frank Klopas.
As for De los Cobos', the outlook for the rest of preseason is straightforward and something that should bring joy to the Fire faithful.
"My main concern within the next two months is to get a team that not only wins, but that attracts people with the style of playing. I like a team that treats the ball right based on a collective type of soccer and that's what we're beginning to look for."