As you might expect in a between professionals and collegians, the Fire’s 3-0 win Wednesday night vs. Florida Gulf Coast wasn’t exactly an equal affair.
Split up into three 30-minute periods, the starting group made up of the core XI came out raring to go, pushing the collegiate side to a hectic pace.
“I told them we need to push and make it like a very strong training session and that’s what it was,” Klopas told Chicago-Fire.com postgame.”With matches like this, it’s about how we approach the game, I think our approach was good and we need to build on it now.”
Newly signed Uruguayan striker Federico Puppo did well to link up with Dominic Oduro up top with the two partnering to set up the first goal. Oduro slid the newly signed striker up the left before a one-time shot on goal was parried into the path of Marco Pappa who cleaned up the rebound with ease.
The intensity at which the side played at was good to see, with the front six connecting well with each other and overloading FGCU at times with deep runs from full backs Dan Gargan and Gonzalo Segares.
It was five minutes after the goal though where a few hearts stopped as Segares stayed down on the pitch after receiving a tackle following a darting run up the left.
“Gonzalo just rolled the ankle. I don’t think there’s anything there. We’ll evaluate him going into Saturday’s game [vs. Real Espana].”
As a precaution, trialing defender Ivan Guerrero was immediately subbed on for the Costa Rican international and kept up the intensity on the left.
Though just as it felt things had settled a bit, Pappa provided a source of attack in the 21st minute.
Picking up a ball at midfield, the Guatemalan international slid Oduro into the box on the right. The team’s leading scorer in 2011 pushed past his defender before hitting a low effort that was slighting deflected by onrushing Furman keeper Nathan Ingram before hitting the back of the net in the 21st minute.
The match stood as both Pappa and Puppo’s first of preseason and Klopas was pleased with both players effort.
“Puppo had very good movement, he moves well off the ball. He’s very clever with his feet and is only going to get better. He gives us another option now with a guy that’s very good going forward and one that is smart on and off the ball. Marco’s a special player, when he makes good decisions -- when to hold the ball or not to take too many touches, he’s an impact player in every match.”
The Fire’s second group of 30 wasn’t quite as dominant but still held the lion’s share of possession while creating a number of chances they just couldn’t finish.
Trialing Greek defender Stavros Stathakis held steady with first round SuperDraft selection Austin Berry in the center of the backline. The big performances however came in the midfield where playing at the top of the diamond, Corben Bone predicated much of the attack while Homegrown player Victor Pineda made bombing runs up the right. Playing in the holding role, Daniel Paladini broke up nearly everything that came through the middle of the park.
Despite a number of chances created, it wasn’t until the final play of the team’s 30 minutes that the XI broke through as Bone’s corner from the left was missed by FGCU keeper Ingram, leaving striker Orr Barouch at the back post for an easy tap-in in the 60th minute.
The third group took a while to get settled but saw its first great chance when Bone (who played 60 minutes) fed the ball to Frimpong. The team’s first round Supplemental Draft selection strode towards goal before unleashing a low belter that came back off the post.
A minute later it was Pineda who set the Ave Maria crowd into a tizzy with a spectacular run from midfield up the right. Carrying the ball to the end line, Pineda beat two defenders in the box before cutting back for Bone, whose one-time effort was saved off the line.
“I wanted to see certain things from every group and I think I got that,” said Klopas. “All three groups played well. We were very well organized, created good opportunities and played with discipline. We’re gradually pushing the guys because going into Saturday’s match we’ll have the group going 45 minutes and them build them up to 90. The progress is there, I’ve seen a big improvement not only in being better with the ball but also in just the movement being more synchronized.”