Fire Training Notes With RDIII: 10.2.12

Head Coach Frank Klopas looks on as the Men in Red get work done. (photo:

Wednesday marks another Chicago Fire home game at fortress Toyota Park. Tuesday, Roberto Diaz (RDIII) was on the scene at training.

Putting the debacle at SKC behind them, the theme this week for the players and coaches is…

Hit the music!!!

So without further adieu, let’s take a look at how Chicago prepared for Wednesday night’s tussle with the Doop…

From left to right: Jeff Marinacci, Frank Klopas, and Joel Biden talk to the team about Tradition, Honor, and Passion. (photo:

Before hitting the pitch, the squad received a surprise visit from Section 8 representatives Jeff Marinacci and Joel Biden, who formally invited the players to attend the club’s 15th Anniversary Party next Monday. (By the way, do you have your tickets yet?) As a show of appreciation for Section 8’s hard work and unconditional support for the squad at home (and especially on the road), Head Coach Frank Klopas led a round of applause for Marinacci, Biden, and their fellow supporters.

And speaking of Frank, gear up for a bonus anecdote about me, RDIII, and “The Kid” himself later in this piece…

Back to the soccer.

After the pre-training talk, the team headed over to the field to do work. Pavel Pardo was the only player who did not practice with the team. He ran a few laps around the field, iced his calf, and left training. Pavel told On The Fire that he does feel a lot better than last week, but needs to be 100% before getting back on the pitch. Here’s hoping we see Pardo on Saturday afternoon at RBNY. No doubt, The Men in Red miss their General.

Dan Gargan returned to full normal training, so it seems that the Kraken should be released versus the Union. With Super Sega out due to the Super Soft second yellow from Chris “bush league” Penso last Friday night, Gargan looks to make his 18th start of 2012. If he hits the pitch, Dan will make his 30th regular season appearance for the Men in Red since coming over from Toronto FC. A nice milestone for the Kraken.

The fundamental focus in Tuesday’s training session was precise passing and using different passing lanes and angles. This is important, because as good as the Fire are on the ball, they won’t see much of it if their passes aren’t crisp, clean, and accurate. Recall the passing accuracy number of 74% at SKC. This is unacceptable and not reflective of winning soccer.

After the passing work, the boys scrimmaged using 4 goals and a field that was wider than it was long. This useful exercise helps with crossing, finishing, using space, and defending in space.

Paladini: Back in the XI? (photo:

Daniel Paladini stopped to say hello after training was through, and reflected upon the SKC match: “No. I don’t think they [SKC] were overly physical. It was a playoff-type game and that’s how much of the games will go from now on. I think we just played to their game from the get-go instead of just worrying about us and playing our game.” Agreed. The best way to approach big games is for the team to worry about itself and playing its game. Thinking too much about the other team causes players to try to do too much and throws them off their game, which is exactly what the Fire did last Friday night.

On The Fire also caught up with team captain and Mr. Wolverine himself, Logan Pause after practice. Here is what Logan said about the importance of tonight’s match beyond the obvious three points: “Being the 15th anniversary of the club, and seeing some old faces that represented this club, the rich tradition and trophies in there definitely makes it special.”

Logan on tomorrow’s match being his 300th MLS appearance with the club: “That’s what I’m hearing. I don’t really look at the numbers, but when I see the number 300 all I can say is I’m so honored and blessed to have represented this club for so long and for so many games. I’ve tried to do it with dignity and integrity, representing the club well.”

Finally, Pause on the similarities and differences between the 2009 Chicago team that made it to the Eastern Conference finals and the current squad: “I think, obviously it’s a whole different team. Not many guys are around from that ’09 team. But I think [in terms of] similarities: the competiveness, that refuse to lose mentality. I think that in ’09 we had special players, some big name players. We also had a strong team. This year we have the same level of talent. I think that we have been consistent this year, and hopefully with one foot in the playoffs we can secure a spot soon and focus on making it further than we did in ’09.”

Bravo El Capitan. Here’s to another 100 appearances in a Fire jersey for #12.

Last, but certainly not least, On The Fire spoke with Head Coach Frank Klopas about Wednesday night’s match and Rookie of the Year candidate Austin Berry.

Klopas on whether he thinks the match could perhaps be a trap game since Philly is mathematically eliminated from the MLS playoffs: “It could be a trap game if you underestimate your opponent, and it’s the same with any game. I think they do have a lot to play for. Those guys are playing for their future for next year, so there’s a lot on the line. We’re not going into this game underestimating anyone. In this league anyone can beat anyone. We just need to come out [and] play at home with confidence. Obviously, we need to press from the start and expect that it’s going to be a difficult match regardless of how it’s been for [Philly] during the season. Being at home in front of our fans we’re confident, but we need to make sure that we’re focused right from the start to the end.

Frank on whether the team felt down after Friday’s loss at SKC: “Listen, we haven’t been down all year, we’ve lost games before, you know, and it’s about moving on. You’re not going to go undefeated. We’ve talked about that. We went down and competed in the second half. Regardless of the second goal late in the game, I think we pushed the game. We played against a good team and this is what the playoffs are going to come down to. It was a good playoff atmosphere and a good learning experience for some of the guys.”

Austin’s not Mikey, but we likes it! (photo:

The Gaffer on Austin Berry’s Rookie of the Year candidate Life cereal box and p.r. campaign: “Good for the kid, you know. But all that doesn’t get to his head. He’s very grounded, very down to earth, and humble. He hasn’t changed. He’s played well but he has a long way to go and he knows it. His attitude has been good and it’s not a guy that all this is going to go to his head. It’s all about consistency, doing it every game every season. It’s been good for him. He’s learned a lot of things along the way and hopefully the cereal is as good as he looks on the box. He’s earned everything that he’s gotten up to this point, and I do believe that for me he should be considered the Rookie of the Year and win it because he’s played a big part of where we are at this point of the season for a young kid.”

On The Fire sends a big “Thank You” to Coach Klopas for taking the time to talk. #InFrankWeTrust

So, the Fire are set to once again take on the Philadelphia Union. All things considered, it likely won’t be a trap match, as the boys looked determined and focused while training. Wednesday marks an opportunity for Chicago to make a statement that the result at SKC was an aberration. The Men in Red will be out to prove that they truly are contenders.

Gargan: “Release me!” (Photo:


  • 3-0 Fire
  • Paladini will start over Alex, and Score.
  • Rolfie will notch his 9th goal of 2012.
  • Guille Franco will play 25-30 minutes and bag his first goal in Fire red.
  • “Milkman” Sean Johnson will keep a clean sheet.
  • The Kraken will be released!
  • The Men in Red will reclaim 2nd place from RBNY, setting up another big match for Saturday afternoon on NBC.

And now, as promised, here’s the bonus story…

Klopas: “Listen. RDIII is my guy. Okay?” (photo:

Today was my first time at training as a credentialed media member. I showed up and looked on from my usual spot. About halfway through practice I introduced myself to Brendan Hannan, (Director of Communications for the Fire). As practice concluded, Brendan graciously invited me onto the practice field.

As I entered, I began talking to other members of the media (TV, newspaper, and so on) and stood alongside them. During this waiting period, I texted my brother to make sure he got to work safely. Frank Klopas took notice.

So there I was, looking down at my phone, texting away, and the next thing I know, Frank is shouting. Brendan Hannan went over to the coach to see what the matter was, so I just went back to texting.

Then, I hear, “Who is that? What is he doing? He better not be tweeting!” I look up, and to my horror, Frank is looking right at me! Oh boy.

So what did I do? I stashed my phone away and yelled “sorry” across the field. Nice.

From there, I went to interview Logan Pause, and then it was time to meet Frank. He shook my hand and asked, “Who do you write for?” “On The Fire, sir.” I said. “What where you doing on your phone?” “Nothing. Just texting my brother to see if he got to work okay.”

Then, Frank says, “That’s good. Just don’t tell him any formations. Your brother might be working for Philly behind your back.” Relieved, I laughed, smiled, and continued to record the interview and listen as the rest of the media guys asked him questions.

After we the media thanked him for taking the time to talk, Frank shook some hands as he left. When he got to me, he shook my hand, and to my surprise, gave me a quick hug! “Sorry about earlier,” he said. Class.

There’s no way you can’t love Frank Klopas. He’s a good coach and a great person.

What a learning experience. I need to start carrying a pen and paper. No more phones.

Until next time Fire fans, this is RDIII signing off. Catch you on the flipside.


Roberto Diaz is On The Fire’s roving reporter and Head Coach Frank Klopas’s new little buddy. Tweet Roberto @nu12no

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