With a unique preseason destination awaiting them, the Chicago Fire gathered briefly in the Windy City earlier this week to officially open the 2019 campaign.
After completing the requisite physicals and media day shoots and celebrating the club's new jersey partner and kits, the Fire took to the training pitch for the first time Wednesday morning under the direction of fourth-year head coach Veljko Paunović.
"I’m sure that every player and every staff will be motivated to do good things this year," said forward Nemanja Nikolić in advance of that first training session. "We know what is in front of us, we know the schedule, we know the teams we will play, and what is the most important, the team spirit -- if we have this then for sure on the field we will show that we have capacity to do much more things that we did last season."
The Fire will take the first steps toward developing that team spirit from their training camp setup in Madrid, Spain, where the squad landed Thursday morning and where they'll remain until Feb. 7. The immersion in football culture planned by Paunović while in his adopted hometown is sure to serve as a fitting jumping-off point for a new campaign.
"I’m ecstatic to be back, I’m sure all the other guys are ecstatic, too," said midfielder Brandt Bronico. "I’ve been itching to get back since we ended so can’t wait to get started, can’t wait to head to Spain to get going on preseason. I was kind of tired of training on my own and forcing myself to grind. It's nice to have an organized plan with a great group of guys and a great group of coaches."
For Bronico, who recorded one goal and five assists in 23 appearances (17 starts) last season, the primary objectives for the first few days on the pitch in Spain are clear-cut.
"We'll be trying to build these relationships back up, we spent some time apart, over the offseason everyone went to visit their families and start fresh for the new year," Bronico said. "Building those relationships on the pitch, getting really clean on our touch and building that chemistry from the start."