AVE MARIA, Fla. -- As of Sunday it will have been 88 days since the Fire first team last played a match, falling 2-1 to the Houston Dynamo in the Eastern Conference Knockout Game.
A lot of returning players from that game, mixed with a few new faces will finally take the field once again as the Fire welcome Florida Gulf Coast University to the team’s training camp home in Ave Maria, Fla. on Sunday.
After a long offseason and a full week of training camp, the preseason opener is a welcome site for Fire players and head coach Frank Klopas.
“It’s good from a player’s stand point,” the manager told Chicago-Fire.com Saturday. “We’ve obviously worked on some things in training and it’s good to get out and just play. It’s good to be finally playing someone else than the guys you’re going against in training every day.”
NEWS: Fire vs. FGCU to be LIVE Streamed beginning at 3pm CT Sunday
Sunday marks the third straight year the Fire have played FGCU in Ave Maria and in an effort to evaluate all players in camp as well as work up the team’s fitness, the game will be broken up into three 30-minute periods.
“Obviously we don’t want to push guys too hard. You have to be smart and careful with it. Some guys will play only 30 [minutes], some might play a little bit longer so we’ll just have to see how some guys are feeling and go from there. It will probably be 30 minutes for most guys.”
As for how he feels his team has progressed through the first week of training camp, the third-year head coach emphasized the time of the year being more about fitness.
“The legs are heavy. That’s normal because the guys have been working very hard. We just need to deal with it and push through. We know that this time of the year the quality isn’t as high as it will be but you deal with it every preseason.
“The quality is going to get better every day but the most important thing right now is making sure the mentality is good in training and guys are pushing hard. I feel good about it so far.”
Stay tuned to Chicago-Fire.com on Sunday morning for Game Notes leading up to the 2013 preseason opener.
WATCH: The Gaffer Speaks on Fitness