Nikolic training

Juninho, Nikolic off and running in first Chicago Fire training session

An emphasis on technique took front-and-center on the first day of the Chicago Fire’s 2017 preseason training at The PrivateBank Fire Pitch in Chicago. Audible among the reverberations inside the domed facility were the voices of forward Nemanja Nikolic and midfielder Juninho, each of whom took to the pitch for the first time with their new teammates after an offseason marked by international transition.

“It was super to feel the ball,” Nikolic said. “It was a long holiday for everybody, and of course the first training is to adapt on the pitch, on the ball, on the feeling of the ball. I think the session was good. The condition was fantastic. The most important thing is to try to make the session very good and to its maximum.”

Watch: Alvarez talks camp, reunion with Nikolic

Head coach Veljko Paunovic opened the day with a drill circuit focused largely on balance, touch, and proper movement, before a very vocal full-squad session capped off the year's first workout. This gave both Nikolic and Juninho their first opportunities to mix it up a bit with their new squad.

“You can tell with all the talking (on the field) that we’re looking forward to the season,” Juninho said. “We’re very hungry. The past few seasons were not that great. We all know that. This season is a new season, a new challenge. We are prepared for that. We’re preparing ourselves for a long season, a different mentality. Hopefully we can prepare ourselves during this preseason to start the new season sharp.”

Developing and sharing a winning mentality has been and will continue to be an emphasis for the two players -- who have combined to win six domestic league championships across their careers -- as preseason training gets into full swing.

See Also: Current camp roster

“I spoke with some guys during the training,” Juninho added. “I stuck with my group for the most part. It was good talk. The guys all want to win. This is the main thing for myself. All of us have the same mentality, and that’s the point. We’ll go from there.”

With day one now behind them, both players left the pitch with an eagerness to keep raising what was a high energy level in 2017’s opening assembly.

“It was super,” Nikolic said. “I saw that everybody is hungry to feel the ball. It was a positive atmosphere. That is good to see every time. The communication on the pitch was good. It needs to get better and better every day, because we need to learn to speak, to push every player, and to make positive energy.”

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