FIRE STRESS­ING FLEX­I­BIL­ITY

LEAGUE PLAN­NING RESTART AROUND AUG. 22 … MAYBE

Chicago Sun-Times - - FIRE BEAT - BY BRIAN SAN­DALOW | @bri­ansan­dalow

Coach Raphael Wicky and the Fire have to pre­pare for games that aren’t of­fi­cially sched­uled. Yes, it’s pos­si­ble the Fire and the rest of Ma­jor League Soc­cer could re­sume their sea­son around Aug. 22, but that’s not of­fi­cial.

It’s a tricky sit­u­a­tion, but it’s some­thing the Fire have to get through.

“We are now pre­par­ing for that date, even though we know we have to be flex­i­ble again, and maybe they change, maybe it won’t be that day,” Wicky told the Sun-Times. “We will see.”

In the in­terim, the Fire are train­ing again at SeatGeek Sta­dium in Bridgeview and stay­ing ready for when­ever they con­tinue. While they wait to find out about the next phase, they likely won’t be play­ing against other teams in friendlies or in­ter­squad scrim­mages, so any rhythm the Fire got into dur­ing their three-game stay at the MLS is Back tour­na­ment likely won’t last.

That’s es­pe­cially tough for a team that un­der­went so much change dur­ing the off­sea­son and has been to­gether for only five mean­ing­ful games, two of which came in early March when the ros­ter wasn’t quite com­plete. To com­pen­sate, Wicky said the Fire will play plenty of 11 vs. 11 in prac­tice to keep some kind of sharp­ness, though he knows that doesn’t repli­cate see­ing an­other team in a com­pet­i­tive set­ting.

“That’s all we can do right now,” Wicky said. “Those are things we can con­trol, and that’s all we’re go­ing to do, not know­ing when we’re play­ing again.”

And when it comes to com­mu­ni­cat­ing with his play­ers, Wicky will be hon­est.

“Well, then we’re go­ing to ex­actly tell them that,” Wicky said. “We’ll say, ‘Look guys, we don’t have any more in­for­ma­tion than you.’ We are pre­par­ing now like we play on the 22nd. That’s what we are do­ing, and know­ing that any day, any week we could get other in­for­ma­tion, and we have to be flex­i­ble.”

Un­for­tu­nately, com­mu­ni­cat­ing with his play­ers about be­ing flex­i­ble and deal­ing with un­knowns is some­thing Wicky has had to han­dle in his first sea­son coach­ing the Fire. It’s some­thing Wicky knows he must do again, and at least he knows that his team has re­acted well to that kind of com­mu­ni­ca­tion over the last few months and for dif­fer­ent rea­sons.

Since March 1, Wicky has been trans­par­ent about the COVID-19 shut­down and all of its im­pli­ca­tions. There was the phased restart to train­ing, and even the sit­u­a­tion dur­ing the MLS is Back tour­na­ment when the Fire opener was post­poned be­cause of the Nashville SC out­break, fol­lowed by the Fire switching groups.

That trans­par­ent com­mu­ni­ca­tion will con­tinue as the Fire get ready for . . . some­thing.

“We’re just go­ing to do that, be­cause it’s the truth,” Wicky said. “It doesn’t make any sense to lie to any­one or pre­tend some­thing.” ✶

CHICAGO FIRE FC

Raphael Wicky

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