wickyclapping

5 quotes from Raphael Wicky's #MLSisBack media availability

Don't look now, but we're only three weeks away from the start of the MLS is Back Tournament on July 8.

The Chicago Fire were drawn into Group A alongside host Orlando City SC, Inter Miami CF, NYCFC, Philadelphia Union, and Nashville SC. The top two teams from each of the six groups plus the best four third-place finishers will advance to the Round of 16. 

Chicago Fire head coach Raphael Wicky met with the media this week to discuss his outlook for the tournament. Below are five notable quotes from the boss during his half hour press conference. 

1. On resuming full-team training...

"Everyone is really excited to be back normal on the field. We have done a very short amount of time of individual training, we have done about 10 days of small-group training, but now full-team training is always something different. Everyone is happy to interact with each other again, to actually compete in training again. The first few days went well, and as a coach I was happy with what I saw. Obviously all the players have to adapt and adjust again. It’s completely different from what they’ve done the last three months. That’s just a fact. It’s different physically. You can run as much as you want, you can dribble as much as you want, you can have small group training, passing drills, but there’s no opposition. And now going back into full-team training, the players say it as well, it feels completely different. It will take a while to get used to it, but what I saw was actually good and the excitement and mentality of everyone is really high and I’m really about happy with that."

2. On being drawn into Group A...

"Like with everything, try to focus on what you really can control. Look, it is a fact that it is probably a little more difficult to qualify in a group of six than a group of four. But it’s out of our hand. We were drawn into that group, and now we’re focusing on the games we have against New York City, Nashville, and Inter Miami. We’re all just happy the league is starting again and we can go compete again."

3. On the benefit of having the entire roster together...

"It’s always nice to have the full group. These last three months were obviously difficult for me as a coach to integrate these players to our playing philosophy because we didn’t train. But the players used the time well to actually connect with each other. We had a lot of Zoom calls, and even they had calls with each other. And so there was a lot of interaction. When I speak to Gastón or Luka or Boris who are all new, they actually said it was very easy to integrate humanly in this group. I think we have a great group of players here who connect really well together. The chemistry of respecting each other and helping each other, I think is really good. Now for the tactical, football standpoint, it’s going to take a while. We couldn’t work for three months. We started with individual training, and then small group – and it’s OK, there’s some patterns, some five vs. zero, six vs. zero, that’s OK, but now we’re in team training and we’re trying to integrate them into our philosophy and principals. That’s a process, and it’ll take some time, but I’m happy that these guys are here and actually feel very accepted and very happy to be in the group. And that helps a lot for mentality."

4. On his mindset for tournament play...

"It’s always important that opening game. If you want to go far, that opening game is important. It’s not decisive because even if you win, it doesn’t mean you go through and if you lose, you’re not out, but everyone wants to go into a tournament and have a good start. But I also have to say it’s almost like two separate competitions because the group stage counts for the league. If we go through, which would be amazing and it’s what we want, those games don’t count for the league. Those games can get you money and a Champions League spot, but you don’t get the three points. So for us, we’re focused on the group stage now and we’ll take it game-by-game. That’s another thing when you’re in a tournament – you have to take it step-by-step, game-by-game. Don’t plan for the third game before having played the first game. And that’s what we’re going to do. 

5. On his goals for the team in Orlando...

"We have the ambition to go through. We have the ambition to go down there and win the tournament. I think New York City is the team who is a 'made team' that didn’t have a lot of changes in the roster besides the coach, but the main players are still there from the last seasons, and they had quite a specific style of play developed over the last two, three, four years. And then there is two expansion teams, but like I said, after these three months break for everyone, honestly, what does it really mean what you’ve seen before from the team? So we have ambition, I believe in our team, I believe in our staff and our club that we have a chance to go through and win these games. I believe in the quality we have, but it’s difficult to judge these teams after this three-month break. That’s why we’re focusing on our own, and doing the best we can to prepare mentally and physically and go down there excited with a lot of energy and try to win these games."