The Fire got off to an early start Wednesday morning when they caught a morning flight from the Windy City to the Lowcountry.
Chicago will spend the better part of the next two weeks in Charleston, S.C., finishing up preseason training and participating in the Carolina Challenge Cup.
The Fire will play four matches while in the Palmetto State. They’ll take on Toronto FC, D.C. United and the Charleston Battery in the tournament March 5-12, and UNC Greensboro in a friendly.
Chicago will use the trip to finish evaluating unsigned players and work out some of their remaining kinks.
“It’s the final phase,” technical director Frank Klopas told MLSsoccer.com. “We still need to make some decisions on some players that have been in camp with us and we’re going to play some good matches right before the season. It should be good.”
Klopas emphasized the importance of playing high quality competition so close to First Kick.
“I think it’s important for our players to get accustomed to playing 90 minutes against some very good competition so we’re sharp and ready to go starting in Dallas with that first game,” he said.
Reflecting on Florida
[inline_node:329537]Klopas had plenty of positive things to say about the Fire’s recently completed two-week Florida camp. The camp, which ended this past weekend, saw the Fire train daily and play four friendlies; two against New York, one against Seattle and one against a local college team.
“I think it was a good trip in many ways,” Klopas said. “It was a very good attitude. The players worked very hard, I thought it was very positive all around from the players and the coaching staff.”
“Obviously we had a couple good tests — one against New York and one against Seattle,” he added. “There were a lot of good things that we saw in those games.”
It doesn’t look as though the Fire are done adding pieces. The team is apparently looking at a couple options outside camp, including another unnamed international forward.
“We have a couple options,” Klopas said. “We’re looking to probably sign another forward and after that we could make one or two other moves.”
The Fire signed two international forwards – Uruguayans Gastón Puerari and Diego Cháves – earlier this offseason.
The Final Number
Klopas reiterated his plans to keep 28 players on the opening day roster, two under the league maximum of 30.
“We’ve always talked about 28 as the final number and I think that’s what we’re leaning to at the moment,” he said. “You don’t want to fill roster spots just to fill roster spots. I think 28 gives us a good enough number because we can fill out our reserve league team with academy players.”
The Fire currently have 32 players in camp. There are 22 players under contract: one unsigned draft pick and nine unsigned trialists.
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.