It's officially a match week for the Chicago Fire.
The Fire's regular season starts Sunday against New York City FC. The 1 p.m. match will be televised on CSN Chicago and will mark the start of the Veljko Paunovic era.
On Monday, the club marked the new season in style during the annual Season Kickoff Luncheon. Players and staff from the club met with fans and members of the media and some new information about the upcoming season was revealed.
For starters, the club will be signing trialist Arturo Alvarez and second round draft pick Alex Morrell. Neither contract has been officially announced, but they were introduced as members of the team on Monday. In addition, third round pick Vincent Keller and 2015 second round pick Kingsley Bryce were waived. Once Alvarez and Morrell are signed the Fire will have 24 players under contract for the season opener.
General manager Nelson Rodriguez said that another trialist who is now under contract, John Goossens, may not have his visa for the season opener. Rodriguez also added that the club is still looking for international players, some of which are under contract with other teams, and that the team "remains a work in progress."
"John Goossens has proven to be a really good find for us," Rodriguez said. "His versatility is also important to us. We think he can play any of the midfield spots. We also think he can play out on the wing for us. That’s comforting. I don’t know if he’ll have his visa in time for this weekend so we’ll adjust if that’s not the case, but we would like to add another midfielder and we still need some support up front. We need to find more goals.
"We’re satisfied with the progress that we’re making on some of the players with whom we’re negotiating currently around the globe. We hope to bring those to conclusion as soon as we can, but always with the eye to building something that can be sustainable.”
As for Sunday's lineup, Paunovic didn't give much away for who would start. When asked if Matt Lampson would be the starting goalkeeper ahead of Sean Johnson after a strong preseason for Lampson, which included starting two shutouts in the preseason, Paunovic gave an open-ended answer.
“We are working on that," Paunovic said. "We have seven days to prepare for the game.”
Perhaps it's just a coach remaining guarded about his lineup, but Johnson's answer to a similar question didn't kill any speculation either. Johnson only played in one of the three preseason games in Portland and said there has been no discussion about who would start.
"I definitely expected to play more than I did," Johnson said. "Playing 75 minutes in Portland, I would have liked to play a little more, but that’s the coach’s decision and not mine.”
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To throw another question mark into the mix, David Accam's status is still unclear. Accam didn't play in Portland initially due to illness, but now Paunovic said he is dealing with a minor muscle injury.
“He had some small muscular problems so we believe he is going to be fine soon because we are not going to push him because he is very important for our team," Paunovic said. "We don’t want him to feel under stress now when we are starting so when he is ready he will be great for us.”
To sum it up, the Fire are resembling a serialized drama right now. For as many answers as they provide, a few more questions are popping up to replace them. Sunday's match against NYCFC will answer a lot of questions.