The Fire has been relatively quiet this offseason, but that changed in a hurry on Friday when the club acquired Estonian midfielder Joel Lindpere from the New York Red Bulls for an international roster spot.
Lindpere will bring experience to a Fire midfield that struggled last season after Sebastian Grazzini left the club to return to Argentina in midseason. Lindpere started his professional career with stints at several Estonian clubs beginning in 1997. He also performed for his countrys national team.
His career blossomed when he moved first to CSKA Sofia in Bulgaria and then to Tromo IL in Norway before he joined the Red Bulls in 2010. In addition to Lindperes signing, the Fire announced its preseason schedule on Friday.
Prior to that, the major offseason developments included the signing of German defender Arne Friedrich for another season; the acquisition of Brazilian forward Maicon Santos, from D.C. United, and the loss of defender Dan Gargan, to the San Jose Earthquakes, in the re-entry draft; and the departure of two-year club president Julian Posada.
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The Fire made the only selection in the first stage of the re-entry draft in picking up Santos. One other member of last years Fire, goalkeeper Jay Nolly, wasnt re-signed or claimed in the re-entry draft. Hes now a free agent. More substantial developments are in the offing, with a new player acquisition and the winner of Decembers open tryout to be announced early next week.
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On Friday, the club, preparing for its 16th season, became one of the last in MLS to announce its preseason plans. Players will gather at Toyota Park on Jan. 18 for two days of medical exams. Theyll depart for the first phase of preseason training on Jan. 20, with 10 days of workouts to be held again at Ave Maria University, on the outskirts of Naples, FL.
The sessions in Florida include matches against Florida Gulf Coast University at Ave Maria on Jan. 27 and the first battle with an MLS opponent on Jan. 30, when the Columbus Crew shows up at IMG Academy in Bradenton.
RELATED: Fire select Maicon Santos in MLS re-entry draft
After returning to Chicago for a brief break, the players will resume preseason training in Ventura, Calif., from Feb. 2-10. Highlight of the workouts there will be a match against San Jose at Oxnard College, with the date still to be determined.
For the third straight season the Fire will conclude the preseason in the Carolina Challenge Cup Feb. 23-24 in Charleston, S.C. The Fire will be joined in that four-team round robin competition by the Houston Dynamo, an MLS Cup finalist the last two seasons; the host Charleston Battery, champion of the United Soccer League in 2012; and the Vancouver Whitecaps, an MLS rival.
The Fires last match of 2012 was a 2-1 loss to the Dynamo at Toyota Park in the first game the MLS postseason. It was also the Fires first playoff game since 2009.
Before the Fire begins training, forward Chris Rolfe will join about 30 other MLS stars at Soccer Night in Newtown on Jan. 7. Its being held in support of the victims of the tragic shooting in that Connecticut town that devastated the nation days before Christmas.
The first regular season match is Mar. 3 against the two-time defending MLS Cup champion Los Angeles Galaxy at the Home Depot Center. Thats a week earlier than the 2012 season openers. The Fires home opener is Mar. 9 against the New England Revolution.