Fire will strive to fix chemistry issues during training camp
BY SETH GRUEN For Sun-Times Media January 18, 2013 11:32PM
BRIDGEVIEW, IL - AUGUST 18: Chris Rolfe #18 of the Chicago Fire is congratulated by teammate Patrick Nyarko #14 after scoring a goal on the New England Revolution in the first half during their MLS match at Toyota Park on August 18, 2012 in Bridgeview, Illinois. (Photo by John Gress/Getty Images)
Updated: February 20, 2013 6:16AM
When the Fire reported to Toyota Park for medical exams Friday in advance of the start of training camp Sunday, the team wasn’t championing the clean-slate mantra of most clubs around MLS.
Instead, it’s looking at it as a chance to correct what proved to be its downfall in the final month of last season, when it went 1-3-1, including a home loss to the Houston Dynamo in the Eastern Conference play-in game.
The team couldn’t pinpoint one reason for its disappointing finish but acknowledged that a breakdown in chemistry was a cause.
As a result, the players went rogue in trying to fix the various problems.
With the core of last year’s team returning, the Fire will focus on developing a chemistry to last them the season. That will be a top priority when it begins the first phase of training camp in Ave Maria, Fla.
“You could see at the end of the year last year that we didn’t really have that chemistry,” striker Chris Rolfe said. “It kind of fell off.
“Probably the reason that our chemistry lacked was because we were trying to solve the issues ourselves instead of doing it as a team.”
Rolfe and fellow starting striker Sherjill MacDonald joined the team after signing contracts in the middle of the season.
Surprisingly, they were able to develop chemistry between one another early in their partnership, but the duo’s unfamiliarity with one another showed up later in the season.
Rolfe believes that being able to participate in the six-week training camp together will pay immediate dividends when the season starts in March.
Similarly, it will allow center back Arne Friedrich, who did not participate in the Fire’s training camp after signing late in the preseason, to build on the success he had in captaining the Fire’s back line last season.
“Now that this group has been around long enough we’re able to start further along down the process,” captain Logan Pause said. “In having a core returning, you’re able to not necessarily work on the basics so to speak. The guys know each other’s tendencies.”
Among the biggest questions heading into camp is Pause’s role with the team.
Last season he started as a holding midfielder. But the acquisition of holders Joel Lindpere and Jeff Larentowicz makes it seem as if Pause could be shifted to the back line or reduced to a role as a super sub.
“We have a good idea of how certain things should look like, but a lot of those questions have to be answered by the players themselves,” coach Frank Klopas said. “That’s why you bring competition — to try to improve the team.”