As player acquisitions trickle in for the Chicago Fire, forward is a position that has been left mostly untouched and untalked about.
Returning as strikers are Gilberto and Kennedy Igboananike. David Accam will probably line up as a striker on occasion, but will also play out wide. Despite the relatively low number of forwards, general manager Nelson Rodriguez has said nothing of acquiring another forward, instead focusing on different positions.
Perhaps if the team typically lines up in a 4-2-3-1, which coach Veljko Paunovic called the team’s starting formation for now, a larger number of forwards won’t be as necessary. Either way, the limited number of forwards makes it appear rookie homegrown player Joey Calistri is in line to see some playing time as injuries, suspensions and national team absences inevitably occur throughout the season.
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Since signing his homegrown contract with the Fire in December, Calistri had spent time training at the PrivateBank Fire Pitch. With the start of the preseason last week, Calistri got his first taste of training under Paunovic.
“He’s given not only me but a lot of the guys that play attacking positions a lot of advice about, especially, where to position yourself on the field when we have the ball and how everybody rotates,” Calistri said. “I think I’ve learned a lot already in the first week and a lot more coming in the future.”
Calistri scored a goal in the small field scrimmage that ended training on Friday. That should serve as a confidence boost, but after admitting to nerves on the first day, Calistri appears to be full of confidence.
“I think you have to have that mentality a little bit that you belong here,” Calistri said. “Obviously you have to be humble, but at the same time I think everybody here deserves to be here. I think if you play like you deserve to be here then it’ll show.”
The 22-year-old holds a communications degree from Northwestern and worked in the Fire’s communications office last summer. He recently received some pub as one of the top homegrown players to watch in MLS this season from SBISoccer.com.
“First of all, he’s a great kid,” Paunovic said. “Great soccer player. I think he is improving very well and he is working very hard. His attitude is great so we are very happy with him.”
Paunovic isn’t the only one Calistri will be learning from this season. The Fire’s three aforementioned attackers are all designated players, which makes Calistri the only unproven player at his position.
“They’re great personalities,” Calistri said of the likes of Gilberto and Accam. “I’m definitely going to be looking to learn from them, on and off the field, to learn what it’s like to be a professional at this level. I definitely think I can do that as the year goes on and that’s something that I’ll try to get better at as we go forward.”