FAN-FRIENDLY, MI­NUS THE FANS

BERIC WAIT­ING FOR OP­POR­TU­NITY TO MEET FIRE FAITH­FUL

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

Striker Robert Beric is the type of player who builds strong re­la­tion­ships with fans. He’s just wait­ing for the chance to play in front of Fire sup­port­ers in Chicago and bond with them in per­son.

When the Fire an­nounced his sign­ing in Jan­uary from French side Saint-Eti­enne, they did so with a video of Beric down­ing a shot of Malort, which turned into one of the team’s best-re­ceived posts on so­cial me­dia. Beric is also quick with a joke and speaks five lan­guages.

On the field, Beric has scored twice in five games and has shown signs of be­ing a depend­able for­ward wor­thy of his des­ig­nated player spot. At 6-2 and 183 pounds, Beric’s abil­ity to leap for crosses fig­ures to be an ad­van­tage for the Fire, while his strength gives them re­li­able hold-up play as team­mates ar­rive into the at­tack­ing third of the field.

But be­cause of cir­cum­stances beyond his con­trol, Beric hasn’t played once in Chicago. The Fire’s two games be­fore the pan­demic paused the sea­son were on the road, their next three were in Florida dur­ing the MLS is Back tour­na­ment, and if the 2020 sea­son re­sumes in home mar­kets, it’s hard to pic­ture fans be­ing al­lowed in.

That said, Beric does feel the sup­port of Fire fans, but he’s ea­ger to ac­tu­ally suit up in a home match.

“It’s dif­fi­cult,” Beric said. “Hon­estly, it’s dif­fi­cult be­cause it’s al­ways nice to play in front of your fans, when some­body’s cheer­ing for you, when you have the sup­port. We say that’s the 12th player on the pitch.”

No, Beric and the Fire haven’t played in front of home fans this sea­son, but he did men­tion an ex­pe­ri­ence he ap­pre­ci­ated.

When the Fire departed for Or­lando, Florida, a group of sup­port­ers saw the team off, wish­ing them well in a so­cially dis­tant style. That mo­ment stuck with Beric.

“I was re­ally happy when we left for Or­lando

and our fans were greet­ing us in the park­ing lot in front of the bus, cheer­ing for us, say­ing good luck to ev­ery­body,” Beric said. “That was one of the nicest feel­ings.

“It’s dif­fi­cult to con­nect, but hope­fully we’re go­ing to play soon with them [in at­ten­dance].”

Re­gard­less of whether that hap­pens this sea­son, Beric and the Fire are get­ting ready for an­other phase of their sea­son. Fol­low­ing their re­turn from Florida af­ter get­ting elim­i­nated from the tour­na­ment, the Fire re­sumed train­ing in prepa­ra­tion for more games.

Dur­ing the prac­tices, the Fire can work on im­prov­ing and get­ting used to each other. They can hone their tac­tics, their dis­ci­pline in the game, and how they con­nect when they’re in pos­ses­sion and at­tack­ing the op­po­nent.

But at this point, the 2020 Fire have done more pre­par­ing than play­ing.

“We are now do­ing the third prepa­ra­tion this sea­son, so it’s quite funny,” Beric quipped. “I’ve never had so many prepa­ra­tions in one sea­son.” ✶

MARK BROWN/GETTY IM­AGES

Robert Beric

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