It's been an odd preseason for supporters of the Chicago Fire. On the upside, the team's roster has been comprehensively made over since last year's crash-and-burn, with several exciting players brought in. Cautious optimism is the order of the day; it's hard to imagine that a roster that features the attacking talent the Fire now boast will put up the sort of moribund results that were the rule in 2014.
On the other hand, it's been a month since the club started preseason, and information has not been easy to come by. In recent years, the Men in Red have communicated a nearly steady drum-beat of preseason updates via social media, with short training-camp summaries published daily. This year, that drum-beat has been, at best, unsteady: The training stint in England could have taken place on the dark side of the moon, for all the useful information one could glean.
That all ended, seemingly, yesterday. A lengthy practice summary by Scott Hammer had some useful information:
- Jeff Larentowicz and Adailton do seem to be the preferred center-back pairing, with Eric Gehrig and Matt Polster the second string.
- Harry Shipp is giving the impression that he'll be unaffected by a 'sophomore slump.'
- Guly du Prado and Quincy Amarikwa seem like depth at the attacking positions, which is an astonishing delight.
... and so on. It is encouraging, to say the least, to see the team actually exists and that the players are actually training.
But if the English-language conversation around the Fire has been a bit oxygen-starved for the last month, consider the plight of the Spanish-speaking fan of the club. The last update to the Fire's Spanish-language site was "Emotiva despedida vivió Logan Pause" - a piece about Pause's emotional farewell. It is dated October 28.
Since then, nada. Even when stalwart left back Gonzalo Segares called time on his 10-year career with the Fire, nothing was written about it in his native tongue.
Hot (Time) take
As enthused as I am about the Fire's new-look roster - and I am! - there are concerns about the health of the organization overall. Sources in the organization have described a meeting between Fire COO Atul Khosla and the various department heads shortly after the conclusion of the 2014 season, a meeting that took place immediately after Khosla spent a couple days closeted with owner Andrew Hauptman in Los Angeles. Apparently, the news was not good - "everyone, and I mean everyone, left looking pissed off" is how one source described it. The topic was the 2015 department budgets for operations.
Now we start to see the fallout. The previous years' steady tick-tick-tick of news and anecdotes and training fluff has gone; now we get twice-weekly training updates if we're lucky. In fact, since training camp started, the club has posted more news items about corporate initiatives than updates on, y'know, the football team.
But it could be worse - I could be writing this in Spanish. After last year's Sector Latino debacle, the complete abandonment of Spanish-language communications feels like a cold shoulder to some of the most passionate and committed parts of the Fire supporter community.
Here's to hoping it's all down to budget cuts - simply walking away from supporters is surely a sign of a club still in disarray.