Stage one of the Chicago Fire preseason has finished. Now it’s off to Tampa.
The Fire completed a week of training at the PrivateBank Fire Pitch in Chicago to begin the preseason. Sunday is the travel day into Tampa for the second phase of the preseason. The Fire will be in Tampa through Feb. 11 and will play two preseason games, against the University of South Florida on Feb. 6 and against the Philadelphia Union on Feb. 11.
The week in Chicago represented the start of coach Veljko Paunovic’s tenure. The typically positive coach says he is encouraged by the team’s start.
“It was a very successful week,” Paunovic said after Friday’s training session. “I’m very happy with the job, with the players, with the energy, attitude. Everything was fantastic and I really enjoyed it. I think the players did, too.
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“We finished this week of introduction to our methods and our style of work and obviously style of play that we want to develop in this season. I’m very happy with what we have done.”
Friday’s training was open to fans and the Fire finished the training session with a small field scrimmage. The coaching staff emphasized playing out of the back at all times and due to the small field most of the play was on the ground.
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“It demands more from your first touch, it makes everything have to be crisp and have to be tidy when you’re on the ball,” said rookie forward Joey Calistri, who scored a goal in the scrimmage.
Paunovic complimented players on their fitness this early in the preseason and explained the basic plan for the Fire’s time in Tampa.
“We will increase our workout, we will increase our intensity,” Paunovic said. “In the same time we want to work on our style of play, technical concepts and everything we want to develop with the team.”
New signing Joao Meira didn’t train with the team in Chicago, but is expected to join the group in Tampa. The three Fire players with the U.S. Men’s National Team, Sean Johnson, Matt Polster and Brandon Vincent, will also join camp in Tampa sometime after the U.S. plays Canada on Feb. 5.