BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – The Chicago Fire hope that the biggest change they make from this season to next is that they don’t change so much.
The Fire were in an almost constant state of flux throughout 2012, with five players in the starting lineup in their Knockout Round loss to Houston who weren’t with the team at the end of last season. Even with the constant roster shuffle they had some spectacular stretches, but Frank Klopas & Co. ultimately finished out the season with only one win in their last six games.
Chemistry, brought about by an entire offseason to work together, could be key to avoiding a similar fate in 2013.
“There were some very good moments,” Klopas said. “There was a very good understanding with [Chris] Rolfe, with [Álvaro Fernández], with Patrick [Nyarko], but I think there were moments where it didn’t go as well because you didn’t have the opportunity to work. That continuity, now that they spend [preseason] together, there’s a better level of understanding.”
Klopas said he didn’t have any regrets about the way he handled the final stretch of the season, when his team limped into the playoffs after several disappointing results. And that changes may yet come during the offseason – but they’ll probably be few and far between.
“We have to evaluate and assess every position,” Klopas said. “It’s never easy with the salary cap. You’re very limited with what you can do, so every move is crucial. The base is there.”
The Fire may also in the market for a forward to back up Sherjill MacDonald and Rolfe. Guillermo Franco came in late in the season, but his return is anything but certain after the 33-year-old played in three games. Dominic Oduro has also expressed frustration with playing in a reserve role.
A central defender may be on the Fire’s shopping list once again this offseason, because it remains unclear whether Cory Gibbs will be able to return after undergoing microfracture surgery and a repair on his right meniscus.
Gibbs hoped to return late in the season, but he suffered setbacks. The 32-year-old still isn’t back to normal.
“We’re evaluating, and we need to talk to doctors and see what’s going on with him from an injury standpoint,” Klopas said.
The Fire coach is already scouting college games, taking in the Big Ten Tournament at Northwestern last weekend, and he has overseas trips planned for the winter.
“We need to keep working,” he said, “because we need to improve the team and take the next step next year.”