As the MLS is Back Tournament draws closer by the day, Chicago Fire FC players and staff continued their preparations for the league's unique return to play format at SeatGeek Stadium on Thursday.
After full-team training resumed on Monday, the Fire have wasted no time upping the energy now less than three weeks away from the tournament's July 8 start date.
"The trainings have been very intense and very productive, so that's been a very positive thing for us," defender Jonathan Bornstein said. "Obviously we've still got a long ways to prepare for the tournament, but I'm more than sure that we're going to get there in the time we have allotted for us."
Bornstein, having represented the U.S. Men's National Team in 2010, is among the Club's contingent of World Cup veterans drawing on lessons learned from playing on the game's grandest stage. The 35-year-old urged the necessity to maximize pre-tournament preparations given how little time teams have for additional work between matches in a group stage setup.
"The games are spaced out where you play one and directly have to get prepared for the next one," he said. "Maybe there's not even time for so much training as it is studying the opponent and getting ready in that aspect. Hopefully with that experience that I have, I can bring that to the table for the team."
Alongside individual and group drills, Thursday's training session included a short-sided intrasquad tournament. A pink-vested side consisting of Brian Gutiérrez, Miguel Ángel Navarro, Mauricio Pineda, Robert Berić, Djordje Mihailović, Kenneth Kronholm, and Wyatt Omsberg, emerged victorious and took home bragging rights on the day.
For Club captain Francisco Calvo, the tournament mindset feels even fresher coming out of a notable anniversary on Wednesday, an off-day from training for the team.
"Yesterday -- two years ago -- we started the World Cup against Serbia," the Costa Rica international said. "When I think about that, I get really excited because (the MLS is Back Tournament) is something similar. Now, with my team in a kind of World Cup, it's going to be awesome. That kind of format is really exciting."
Calvo appeared twice for Costa Rica at the 2018 edition of the FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Head coach Raphael Wicky -- himself a veteran of the 2006 FIFA World Cup as part of the Switzerland squad -- drove home the need to enter the league's upcoming tournament having done maximum preparation at his media availability on Tuesday.
"Once you're in the tournament mode, it's all about play and recover," he said. "It's all about recovery then. Recover physically, recover mentally, and then be ready again for the next game. During that period in Orlando, once the tournament starts, you're not training much. That's like during a World Cup. You're not doing your tactics or your preparation in the actual tournament."
"Your main work has to be before. That's like with the national team as well. It's not during the tournament."
Wicky and the Fire are slated to take on Nashville SC, Inter Miami CF, and New York City FC as part of their draw into Group A when the MLS is Back Tournament kicks off on July 8 from Orlando's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.