After a bye week due to the FIFA international break, the Chicago Fire are much healthier, according to head coach Ezra Hendrickson.
“We needed that break, though, because we were getting banged up a little bit. It came at a good time for us,” Hendrickson said.
In the days leading up to the 3-1 win over Sporting Kansas City, injuries were beginning to become a problem for the Fire. At one point late that week, Hendrickson had backed down the intensity of his training sessions, allowing his guys to play soccer tennis and other lighter activities in order to stay healthy.
At that point, Gabriel Slonina was dealing with an ankle injury, Rafael Czichos had a left foot issue, Jhon Durán had a knock of some sort, and Carlos Terán was still recovering from a hamstring problem.
Hendrickson says all of those guys are much better and are available for selection Saturday against FC Dallas (2:30 p.m. CT, Univision), although Durán may need another week to be match ready.
As for the guys returning from international duty—Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland), Boris Sekulić (Slovakia), Miguel Navarro (who karate chopped Leo Messi while playing for Venezuela), and Chris Brady and Brian Gutierrez (US U-20s)—all of them returned to Chicago healthy.
Jairo Torres will leave Liga MX side Atlas to join the Fire one month from Friday—on May 1. It’s more than fair to say Hendrickson can’t wait.
“We just want him to stay healthy is our main concern,” Hendrickson said with a laugh. “We play differently than Atlas does. So, we have been watching his games. We like the way he’s performing. But when he gets here, we are going to ask some different things of him, some things that we know he can do.
“May 1 can’t come here quick enough. There’s always that possibility of injury that we keep in the back of our mind, but we are very happy that he’ll be joining us, and it’s just going to make us that much better. He’s a player that we sought after and we were able to get and we just can’t wait until May 1 when he gets here.”
Fire II opener Sunday
The Fire’s MLS Next Pro Team, Chicago Fire II, will make its home debut on Sunday, April 3 at 6 p.m. against Columbus Crew 2. The match will take place at SeatGeek Stadium, and both parking and admission will be free of charge.
For Hendrickson, who was once in charge of the Seattle Sounders second team Tacoma Defiance, these matches are crucial.
“Fire II is a very important aspect of what we do here,” Hendrickson said. “It’s to bridge that gap for some players that we see potential but maybe they are very young, very inexperienced, and if they can get games to help them improve and develop, that’s very important.
“And also for guys from the first team who are coming off injuries, who have not played, maybe like a Carlos (Terán), who has not played in a couple months or month and a half or what-have-you, and he can go out and play and gain some match fitness and stuff like that.
“Now we have to be careful that we don’t put too many of our first team players on a Sunday to play because we don’t want to risk injuries.”
If you’re interested in attending, the Fire have a FAQ page you’ll want to check out ahead of time: https://www.chicagofirefc.com/two/attend/.