In Wednesday’s third installment of “Sit Down with the Gaffer”, I got Frank’s thoughts on the team’s offseason attacking additions and competition at that end of the field.
In today’s fourth installment, I speak to Frank about his thoughts on squad rotation and get his reaction to the Fire's regular season schedule.
The Fire’s most successful stretch of the 2012 MLS campaign came when the team won seven of eight matches during in August and September.
That streak of games not only put the team within inches of its first playoff berth since 2009 but by the end of September, saw the Men in Red visit Sporting KC for a chance to take top spot in the Eastern Conference
A 2-0 loss in the match played on September 28 might have taken some wind out of the team’s sails, with the side taking just four points from its final four regular season matches and entering the playoffs lacking the same spark and creativity they’d utilized in late summer.
One reason raised for the less than stellar play at the end of the season was a perceived lack of squad rotation by head coach Frank Klopas. Though the manager’s main mantra this offseason has been about depth and competition in the team, those hoping for lots of moving parts during 2013 may be disappointed.
“For me continuity is very important to have within a team,” Klopas explained to Chicago-Fire.com “I think you can rotate some guys but it’s difficult sometimes to choose which players you do that with. You look at successful teams like Barcelona and Manchester United in the past and there are certain players that never move. Those teams do make some changes but certain guys just don’t get rotated.
“Injuries and suspensions also factor into what you do you but yes, you need to have quality and depth in certain spots for those times you’re having to play three games in a week and you have to travel, you have to look into that. There are certain spots that you can’t change or rotate.
"The continuity and the ability to play with certain guys over and over again is important. To know their tendencies, their weaknesses and their strengths is very valuable in a game and something that doesn’t come overnight.”
In 2012, the Fire had five instances where the team played three games in less than eight days. With Wednesday’s release of the 2013 MLS regular season schedule, the Fire have less midweek matches (just three) and only two instances where the team stacks up three games in a span of eight days.
This will change a bit once U.S. Open Cup dates are released and depending on how far the team goes in that tournament, could require more squad rotation.
Klopas concluded, “When you look at very good teams and their ability to not make a lot of changes in certain spots, when you can identify your core of players and build around that, it doesn’t take a lot of time to adapt.”
As for the schedule itself, the Fire head coach didn’t put much stock into the difficult prospect of opening up at the defending MLS Cup champions.
“There are no easy games. It’s a great opportunity for us to open up against the defending champions, we look forward to it. There’s never going to be any easy games and I think over the course of the season things tend to even out.
“It’s important for us to have good preparation in preseason and it helps to have the continuity with so many guys returning from the last few years.
"I think now our sacrifices and willingness to work harder everyday are very important because the expectations are getting higher. Mine are higher, our goals are going to be higher and so we have to work that much harder to achieve them.”
In Friday's final installment, I talk to Frank about his thoughts heading into the MLS Combine and next week's SuperDraft.