Chicago Fire Head Coach Raphael Wicky is paying attention.
He knows the coronavirus numbers continue to surge in Florida. But, with the club set to travel to Orlando Wednesday for the MLS is Back Tournament, he’s putting his faith in the league to keep his team safe.
“We follow the news, and we read newspapers, internet, and we know the cases are quite high in Florida,” Wicky told reporters in a virtual news conference today. “But like I said [at the last news conference], we trust the league. We have agreed to this tournament. We’re excited to go to this tournament, and from the beginning we said that we trust the league wants everyone to be safe, and will keep everyone safe.”
After two-and-a-half weeks of full team training, the Fire will hold a full, 90 minute in house game Wednesday before leaving. Wicky wants to gauge his team’s fitness after more than three months between real, actual soccer games.
“Will they be able to play 90 minutes football?” Wicky asked. “I think so. I hope so. At what intensity? I can’t tell you. I’ve never been through that.”
“They’re in a good spot physically,” he continued. “But, they’re only in two-and-a-half weeks of full team training now. That’s the reality. Real football training is two-and-a-half weeks. Is that enough? No. It’s not enough, but it is what it is. Everyone else is more or less in the same boat.”
Wicky said he’s used the last couple weeks to get to know some of the team’s new players—Gastón Giménez, Ignacio Aliseda, Luka Stojanović, Miguel Angel Navarro, and Boris Sekulić, and he believes all of them will be solid signings for Chicago. But, when asked about which players have stood out, he singled out one—Mauricio Pineda.
“I don’t really like to talk about one player, but Mauricio Pineda has continued to train the way he stopped before [the coronavirus hiatus],” Wicky said. “He was probably a very positive surprise for most of us, for everyone, we’re very, very happy with him. We were happy with him before corona, and I’m actually very happy with him, where he is now. But, I hope when he reads this, this doesn’t make him go to work less!”
Some other notes: Wicky said of the team’s teenage homegrown players, Brian Gutierrez, Javier Casas, Jr., Nick Slonina, Gabriel Slonina, and Andre Reynolds II should be on the roster in Orlando. Alex Monis, Chris Brady and Allan Rodriguez will stay behind and train in Chicago, or will join the team’s USL League One affiliate, Forward Madison. The reason, Wicky said, is that Monis, Brady and Rodriguez weren’t registered to play MLS games at the beginning of the season.
He said he expects to use most of the roster for the tournament, so with the exception of Gabriel Slonina, who ranks as the team’s fourth goalkeeper behind Kenneth Kronholm, Bobby Shuttleworth and Connor Sparrow, most of the rest of the guys should see at least some minutes.
That includes Reynolds, who Wicky indicated was behind Jonathan Bornstein and Miguel Angel Navarro in the depth chart on the left side of the defense.
As for his starting eleven, Wicky said he’s close to having it figured out.
“I have an idea, but there is always two, three positions still open, which is good,” Wicky said. “I have good choices. I have not only 11 players, we have a bigger number of players which could be potential starting players. This is a good problem for me to have.”