Fire head coach Frank Klopas returned from a busy offseason that took him on scouting and observation trips on three continents as the Fire technical staff looks to build off the 2012 MLS campaign.
Spending the first leg in Europe, Klopas along with assistant coach Mike Matkovich as well as Soccer Operations executives Javier Leon and Guillermo Petrei visited Holland, Belgium and Spain in late November and early December.
“We took the opportunity to look at some games and take in some training sessions but also to see some players we have identified as potential targets,” Klopas told Chicago-Fire.com. “I spent some time with coaches, especially at PSV with Dick Advocaat who I’d known through his time back here with the Sting.”
WATCH: Berry, Anibaba train with Atletico Madrid
The group then took in training with the club’s “Team for the World” alliance partner Atletico Madrid, where they watched as Fire players Austin Berry and Jalil Anibaba trained against the club’s first team in preparation for their derby match against Real Madrid on December 2.
“I thought they did very well,” Klopas said of his young defenders performances. “It was a good opportunity for them in a different environment. I think those chances are good and coming off very strong seasons, it’s great to continue and get additional experience.
“For younger players, I think the ability to continue to play and get games always benefits them. For them both to have an opportunity to mark Falcao and see how someone like that moves off the ball and how clever they think with their movement, I think that’s going to be helpful going into next season.”
From Spain, Klopas returned to Chicago before making a quick trip to Argentina to look at a few more players identified as potential targets.
Following the South American leg of his scouting tour, Klopas set out to Costa Rica to attend defender Gonzalo Segares’ wedding on December 15 but extended his stay an extra day as he took in the Costa Rican Primera first leg final between Herediano and Alajuelense.
“The trip to Costa Rica was a chance to see Gonzalo on his special day but also served as an opportunity to see the two best teams play in the final match and look at some players there.”
With the team 13 days away from opening up training camp in Ave Maria, Fla., Klopas admitted that there will be less roster turnover heading into 2013 compared to previous season, but moves will be made and competition will be open.
The club’s two offseason acquisitions Maicon Santos and Joel Lindpere are expected to be part of that competition as well as adding attacking depth to the team.
“We have a lot more continuity going into this season and I think that does help. You also want to bring players in that are going to be challenging for spots everyday.
“We feel we have a good base going in but it’s still a fresh start and new guys coming are going to be push to be starters every day. It’s nice when you have that kind of quality and depth in the team.”
In Part Two on Tuesday, I talk to Frank about defensive depth, his thoughts on Maicon Santos and Joel Lindpere as well as squad rotation heading into 2013.