The Chicago Fire have their final preseason test as they play for the 2014 Desert Diamond Cup Saturday night vs. Los Futuros de Chivas de Guadalajara, a.k.a. a Chivas Guadalajara “Development Team” at 7:30pm CT on Chicago-Fire.com.
Here are some things you should know going into the match.
What’s the plan for tonight?
With it being the final tune-up, expect to see a pretty close visualization of what Frank Yallop’s starting XI would be come next Sunday’s opener at Chivas USA. Following the team’s 2-1 tournament opening win on February 19 vs. the Colorado Rapids, Yallop said he planned to push his starting group about two-and-a-half games over the course of the remaining three.
The starters went 90 minutes in a 2-0 win over FC Tucson and played a half in Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to the New England Revolution, so it seems they’ll see most of the time Saturday night.
Mike Magee, will he play?
Fire forward Mike Magee went through a double training session on Friday with Yallop admitting that the 2013 MLS MVP is playing fitness “catch-up” with his teammates after taking a leave from camp with a hamstring injury and personal reasons.
Yallop wouldn’t commit to say Magee would feature in Saturday night’s game, preferring to wait and see how the player felt after returning from afternoon training on Friday.
“I’ll talk to him and see how he’s feeling,” Yallop said on Friday’s conference call. “What I don’t want to do is push him, get him re-injured and then we’re all in trouble. I want to bring him along slowly, it’s been three weeks – he’s just kind of getting over the hamstring.
“I’m hoping he’s available, at what capacity, I’ll decide later.”
Center back pairing, Austin Berry trade explained
Asked about how Bakary Soumare’s play in camp has been, Yallop praised the veteran Fire defender’s performance in preseason and was open about who his center back partner would be, come next Sunday’s season opener at Chivas USA.
“Baky’s been really good, really focused and we’ve done a lot of organization stuff with the back four and has been outstanding in the games he’s played. He wants to do well, he has a great demeanor, he’s got a bit of a mean streak which is always good for a defender and I think it looks like Jhon Kennedy [Hurtado] will be next to him.”
Yallop also opened up more about the reasoning behind Monday’s trade of third-year defender Austin Berry to the Philadelphia Union:
“We have Patrick Ianni who’s a very good, experienced player in this league and that’s one of the reasons we could afford to let Austin Berry go. I like the kid and he’s been a good player with Chicago and those things but something had to give. We were up against the [salarly] cap, we had to make sure we made the right moves so we were cap compliant and that was one of the moves we had to do.”
Technical Director Brian Bliss confirmed on the call that the Berry trade “pretty much put us in a position to be cap compliant.”
The MLS deadline for cap compliance is actually today, Saturday, March 1.
What’s going on with Grant Ward?
The Fire roster currently sits at 27 signed players with Yallop insinuating in the past that the team would look to start the season with 28.
That last spot appears to be taken by Tottenham Hotspur youngster Grant Ward who Yallop’s staff is trying to bring to the club on loan after impressing during a two-week stint with the team in Bradenton and here in Tucson.
“Grant is still somebody we’re working on,” Bliss said. “He’s left camp and gone back to Tottenham – he’s training there. We continue to work on the paperwork and the final things to get him buttoned up. To say that Grant Ward would be there by the Chivas game on March 9 would probably be a stretch because we still have some work to do to finalize that one.”
Un-signed players in camp and more trades coming?
Two un-signed trialists, remain in camp in Austrian right back Thomas Piermayr and American left back Parker Walsh. If the 28-man roster is what Yallop is sticking to it seems a rostered player would need to be moved in order to sign either player.
Piermayr, whose playing CV features stops at Norwegian side Lillestrom and Scottish club Inverness, seems more likely of the two, with the 24-year-old full back featuring in more time during the team’s stay here in Tucson.
Asked about Piermayr’s prospects, Yallop was non-committal, though he did say “Thomas has done well.”
The Fire manager returned to talk of the salary cap and alluded to a possible trade in the works, saying, “It’s a big jig saw puzzle with anyone’s cap. We’re trying to see where each player fits in. We’re looking at other possibilities with other teams about maybe trading. We’re forever on the lookout.”