The Chicago Fire put their undefeated preseason streak to the test when they take on Chivas USA today at 2:00 PM CST. Live audio of the game is available below with Fire Communications Manager Brendan Hannan and Team Writer Jeff Crandall teaming up on the play-by-play. Per Crandall, this will be the 4th time the combo has called a game. Twitter updates on the game are available at @ChiFireMatch
UPDATE: Chicago Fire defeated Chivas USA 1-0 thanks to a Daniel Paladini goal in the 49th minute.
On Thursday's weekly conference call, head coach Frank Klopas said he would play two groups for 45 minutes today, use a main group for 60 minutes in Wednesday's game against the Portland Timbers, and then use something closer to a full group for 90 minutes against the San Jose Earthquakes next Saturday. A third group of Fire players will take on Ventura County Fusion immediately following the match against Chivas USA today. More on who is in, who is out, and some other notes from Klopas after the break.
Sean Johnson should see his first taste of preseason action after getting an extended rest this past month. Klopas noted that Johnson has been working hard all off-season either with the USMNT or Everton so he is already fit and just about ready for the season to start. When asked about Johnson and Rafael Robayo, Klopas said they were 'two different cases'. Robayo will likely be held out today while he works up to getting game playing fitness.
The trialist currently known as Alex remains with the team but will be unavailable for selection. Fire captain Logan Pause remains in Chicago with his wife after the birth of the couple's daughter. Set to attend the Comcast SportsNet Awards on Monday, February 13, Pause will rejoin the team the following day in Ventura, Calif.
Former Club America and Queretaro Mexican center back Rodrigo Inigo and former Columbus Crew and D.C. United American defender Jed Zayner have joined the team as trialists. Inigo has been out of contract for awhile. The 26 year-old did receive a two-week trial with Cardiff City in August but that's about it.
D.C. United declined Zayner's option for the 2012 season and no one selected him in the Re-Entry Draft. He can play in the center or on the wing in defense. Zayner is local guy having been born in Valparaiso, IN, attending Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park, IL, and attending Indiana University for college. Both Columbus and D.C. used the 27 year-old only occasionally between 2006-2011. His 20 games played in 2009 represent a significant career high.
Klopas revealed on Thursday's conference call that the team does plan on signing another central back before the start of the season. The Fire head coach also cited a desire to have 28 players on the roster going into the March 17 season opener in Montreal.
One of the players looking to be a part of the 28 has returned to camp; SuperDraft selection Lucky Mkosana. Mkosana had been on leave to wrap up schooling at Dartmouth. The only other unsigned draft picks that remain in camp are Hunter Jumper and Tony Walls. Trialists Ivan Guerrero, Alec Kann and Paolo Tornaghi round out the unsigned players in camp.
As noted in the comments of the Juan David Duque story, Frank Klopas commented on both Eduardo Dasent and Duque. Reports came out of Panama that the Fire had pulled out of a contract offer to Dassent. Klopas denied this stating, "We never made any contract offers to Dassent. His team wanted to send him to us but it didn't work out." Klopas went on to state the he was familiar with Dassent and that he is a central defender that can play right back too.
With that in mind, I asked Klopas if he was familiar with Juan David Duque. The Fire head coach said "Yes, he is a left back from Colombia." On a follow-up if he would be signing with the Fire anytime soon, Klopas made it clear that Duque was not in camp with the team.
Klopas assured fans that they should not worry about Sebastian Grazzini being taken out of last Saturday's game versus Real Espana. "Grazzini is back in training," the Fire head coach stated. "He was removed as a precaution and it is not a problem anymore." Those who want to see Robayo in action should be able to look forward to Wednesday's game. Klopas said he should be available going forward. Robayo's first training session was Thursday morning and he arrived to Fire training camp on Wednesday. The Colombian midfielder is working closely with Fire Strength & Conditioning Coach Tony Jouaux.
These next three games in California provide a great opportunity for the team to evaluate the remaining unsigned players. The competition is stepping up as the MLS teams increasingly play their best players too.