Raphael Wicky’s weekly meeting with reporters kicked off Thursday just as the news broke that Chicago Fire defender Mauricio Pineda earned a spot on the final roster for the U.S. Olympic qualifying team.
The news means the Fire’s 2020 minutes leader will likely miss all of the Orlando portion of training camp, but Wicky still seemed genuinely pleased for Pineda.
“Very happy for Mauricio, hopefully playing in the Olympics would be I think a unique experience for an athlete,” Wicky said. “You don’t really live that often in your career, so if he has the possibility to do that, first they need to qualify and hopefully they do and he will be able to play there. I cross fingers and I’m happy for him.
“It’s also a reward for his performances in the last season where he obviously had a really good rookie season and was called up in multiple national team camps, U-23 camps. Obviously we miss him. As a coach, ideally you wish you had all the players all the time here, but those are things which happen, national team call-ups. Players normally are very proud. I was very proud when I played, so very happy for Mauricio.”
Pineda’s call up wasn’t the only news today. Here are four more things we learned:
Luka Stojanovic is fully healthy. Kenneth Kronholm is almost there, and there have been no other injuries so far in 2021.
“Luka (has been) in full team training since day one,” Wicky said. “He’s with us. He looks good. He’s very happy to be back with the team and we’re very happy to have him. He had a good 11 days of training and we trained intensively and hard, and he looks good. I expect him at one point like always in preseason to be tired. It’s a long time he didn’t train with the team. He didn’t have games. If everything goes well, hopefully he gets 45 minutes this weekend.
“Kenny is not yet in the team training. He also looks good. He’s happy to be with the group. Obviously he’s on the field working separately with our coaches and no pressure on that. That’s a big injury. Kenny is an experienced guy who knows his body, who is honest with us when it’s about how do you feel and stuff.
“So he’s now yet with us and we’re happy to have him in the group. So far, there are no big injuries. There’s the normal soreness in preseason, but so far we are lucky, touch wood, that it stays that way.”
The players came back in shape, and the intensity has been high
“No surprises,” Wicky said of the first training sessions. “Positively, not surprised, but very, very happy with the way the players came back and the shape the players came back (in) after such a long break. And the trainings the last ten days, 11 days, were very good, and the guys looked good and the intensity and the mentality and work ethic was really excellent.
“But I didn’t expect anything else. If you have a three-and-a-half-month break, if you’re not happy to be back on the field and happy to train and happy to work hard, then you maybe look for a different job.”
Wicky expects Gaston Gimenez to be more of a leader in 2021
“Gastón came back in a good shape. He’s training well and now he knows exactly what I want from him on that side. So we’re going to give him time. I don’t think it’s a language barrier or anything. I mean, we have a lot of players who speak Spanish. He’s one of the guys who obviously in the center of the field with his experience, and I expect that and I’m pretty sure I will get that.”
There will (likely) be more preseason games once the team gets back to Chicago
The Fire are looking to add two more preseason games once the team gets back from Orlando. It’s not officially a done deal, but Wicky spilled the dirt:
“Well, we have four games down here. We have in total we have obviously more games. So yeah, these are preseason games, preparation games. It’s to gain game minutes again. It’s to get a rhythm again. Like you said, the guys didn’t have—the last game was November 8.
“That is over four months. So it’s a long time not playing any games. So it’s about getting back into that 45-, 60-, 75-to 90-minute game rhythm and getting the sensations and all of that back. I’m excited and I think the players are actually excited to have on a regular basis real games again.”
Fire preseason schedule updates
Also today, there were a couple tweaks announced to the Orlando preseason matches. The FC Cincinnati and Orlando City games will now start at 10:30 a.m. CT. Also, the Orlando game is now confirmed to take place at Exploria Stadium.
March 13 – Chicago Fire FC vs. New York City FC at Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate (11:00 a.m. CT)
March 20 – Chicago Fire FC vs. Philadelphia Union at Joe DiMaggio Sports Complex (2:00 p.m. CT)
March 27 – Chicago Fire FC vs. FC Cincinnati at Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate (10:30 a.m. CT)
April 3 – Chicago Fire FC vs. Orlando City SC at Exploria Stadium (10:30 a.m. CT) / Return to Chicago
The Fire announced today the NYCFC match will be steamed live on ChicagoFireFC.com. Tyler Terens will call the match. Per MLS rules, it’ll only be available to fans who live within a 75 mile radius of Soldier Field.
As of right now, there’s no news on streaming for the remaining matches.