Though they might not have said it last week, qualifying for the playoffs with a 2-0 win Saturday in New York and the draw in Columbus on Sunday was welcomed with some relief for a few reasons as the team returned to training Tuesday morning.
“It would have been tough had we lost on Saturday,” said Fire head coach Frank Klopas. “Last week was only the second time from a league standpoint where we dropped two games in a row so it would have been difficult to lose, have the long international break in between and have to think about the next game heading to New England on turf.”
WATCH: Fire 2, Red Bulls 0
Tireless Fire winger Patrick Nyarko echoed his coach’s sentiments.
“It’s pretty exciting just to be back in the playoffs,” said the veteran Ghanaian. “This organization is built to be in the playoffs every single year and we’ve been in the wilderness the last two. On the other hand, we haven’t accomplished anything yet. We don’t just want to show up to the playoffs. We’re staying level-headed and going into our last two games trying to play for spots and we’ll see where we land.”
International Break Helps Heal Wounds
With only Uruguayan midfielder Alvaro Fernandez taking part in World Cup qualifying during the international break, Klopas indicated the team would use the time off to help get guys healthy.
In that regard, the biggest question mark surrounds the recovery of midfielder Pavel Pardo who has missed the team’s last five games after suffering a calf strain in the 2-1 win at Toronto on September 12.
“He did train a little bit more today but we just have to see,” said Klopas. “You have to be really careful with a calf [injury]. If you feel good and push it too much you can re-injure it. He’s a little bit better but still not there. I think we have a little bit of time so we won’t rush the guy.”
Fire Anniversary a “Special Night”
The club commemorated its 15th anniversary with a supporter-driven celebration Monday night at the Chicago History museum. Over 20 former players, coaches and executives joined nearly the entire current squad and 400 guests in celebrating 15 years of the Chicago Fire Soccer Club.
15TH ANNIVERSARY PHOTOS
“It was great to see the support of the current players who know the history of the club,” said Klopas. "I think they’re excited because they want to write their own history. The passion and connection the past players have for this organization is great for the current guys to see. I know that they feel just as honored to put that jersey on every day as the ones from years ago did.”
“It was unbelievable seeing some of these guys I watched growing up,” agreed Nyarko. “I told Frank yesterday when I saw Stoitchkov I was scared to go and say hello. All those guys built a history with the Fire and put the club where it is now. For us, we’re just trying to continue on what they built.”
“For me more than anything the anniversary is special because [October 8, 1997] meant professional soccer was back in the city of Chicago,” continued Klopas. “To be in that room with a lot of ’98 guys, the opportunity for those guys to be so connected, you kind of felt that everyone wanted to come and play for the team [back then]. This is what we’ve created again: the way you do things, the way you handle situations, the way you treat people."
"It was a fantastic event that made you proud to be a part of the Fire.”