With the Chicago Fire two days out from their match against the San Jose Earthquakes (Sunday, 7 p.m. CT, FS1), head coach Raphael Wicky met with reporters via Zoom this afternoon. Here are five quick takeaways from his news conference:
Ignacio Aliseda is just fine
Two of the Fire’s three new designated players played a big role in the team’s win over Seattle—striker Robert Berić scored, and defensive midfielder Gastón Giménez put in a solid, 90-minute performance. However, the team’s third DP, 20-year-old Ignacio Aliseda, has yet to play a minute for the team, which Wicky said was a matter of competition.
“I’m very happy about that, to have a lot of options up front,” Wicky said. “CJ [Sapong], Robert [Berić], there’s Elliot Collier who had a really good preseason, who every time delivers when he has to play. Aliseda is in there, we have a lot of midfielders. So that’s how it is. He’s fine, he’s training well, and his moment will come. He has to keep working hard. I know that he’s an option for us. He’s still young. There’s obviously things he has to learn and do better, but there’s nothing specifically going on. It’s just, that’s the game. That’s a team with more than just 11 players.”
Expect some lineup changes—but not many—vs. San Jose
Wicky said he would gauge how his players were doing after the next couple training sessions.
“We have to see how everyone feels,” Wicky said. “I’m not planning on doing five, six changes but it’s possible that there will be a few changes.”
San Jose is known for man-marking, but Wicky is more concerned about something else
The San Jose Earthquakes do something you rarely see—every time their opponent has the ball, the Quakes assign each player their own man to shadow around the field. Fire players normally used to running into space off the ball now have to deal with a defender assigned to chase them around.
“It’s an unusual game to prepare,” Wicky said. “Obviously, you don’t face that often. But, it’s more unusual when you actually have the ball, not really in your defensive shape.”
Because of the style, Wicky said San Jose gets cast as a defensive-first team, when that’s not really the case. The Earthquakes are actually among the league’s best possession teams, too.
“Normally, people don’t really talk about [that], because they think San Jose is a man-marking team, is a defensive team,” Wicky said. “But, it’s actually the contrary. They are very good in possession.”
Wicky likes players who can play different positions
Mauricio Pineda has played well in two different spots for the Fire this season—at the No. 6 defensive midfield position to start the season, and at center back against Seattle on Tuesday.
“When I took over and I trained Mauricio, for me it was clear he could play in both center positions as a center midfielder, defensive midfielder or center defender,” Wicky said.
Some fans were also surprised to see Przemyslaw Frankowski, who normally plays as an attacking winger, stepping in as a wingback against Seattle. Wicky praised the job he did, and said it’s something we could see again.
“I was very happy with Frankie,” Wicky said. “Frankie is obviously a threat going forward, very fast, can always go behind the defensive line and he actually does a really disciplined, really good job defensively. He obviously likes his position.
“Obviously, I speak to my players before putting them in a new position, and he likes that very much. He has played that in the past, as well, he told me. I was very happy, yeah. This is a position where we can see him in the future, as well.”
No injuries to report
Besides Johan Kappelhof, Micheal Azira, and Jeremiah Gutjahr, who all stayed behind in Chicago, Wicky said the team is entirely healthy. He also noted the team is doing well mentally, after 17 days in quarantine.