As Chicago Fire FC enter a new era under head coach Ezra Hendrickson, he expects more roster movement between now and their Feb. 26 opener at Inter Miami CF.

Specifically, the hope is to bolster Chicago's attack after addressing the defense, most notably with center back Rafael Czichos secured from German Bundesliga side FC Köln. Czichos complements those like homegrown goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina and U22 Initiative defensive midfielder Federico Navarro, with the former in US men's national team camps this winter.

The final-third focus comes after two of last year's three Designated Players, forward Robert Beric and winger Igancio Aliseda, have departed. Central midfielder Gaston Gimenez, a Paraguay international, is back on a DP deal.

"We have ongoing conversations with prospective players and prospective clubs and these are situations that we hope to get across the line as soon as possible," Hendrickson said. "So we're being patient, but we're starting with the players we have in camp right now. It's been a good first couple of days, but we're looking forward to some pieces, certainly.

"Yes, we want to be a good defensive team and we've stacked up on a lot of defenders and our focus is to now complement that with some attacking players, some attacking quality. I think that's in the pipeline and hopefully we cross that line with these players that we're looking at shortly."

One attacking boost Chicago certainly will receive is 18-year-old Colombian forward Jhon Jader Duran, who has officially joined from Envigado FC after signing last year as the youngest international signing in MLS history.

Based on what Hendrickson has seen so far, Duran has the potential to play a significant role.

"He's a very good player, a young, energetic player, very dynamic," Hendrickson said of Duran. "I think he's going to score some goals for us this year, we're going to look for him to put the ball in the back of the net. He's very versatile, we can possibly play him on the wing, but he's someone that we're looking to be somewhere in the front three the way we play attacking-wise.

"But that versatility that he brings, that dynamic that he brings, the ability to take guys on 1-v-1 and that finishing ability is something we're going to look to see from him this year."

There's also the potential for homegrowns to emerge, as Chicago have signed nine such players since January 2020 and currently have 11 on their first-team roster. Those like midfielder Sergio Oregel and forward Missael Rodríguez earning MLS minutes represents a significant challenge, but preseason training camp is a proving ground for youngsters to grasp the opportunity.

"What we've stressed with these guys is there isn't a set XI right now," Hendrickson. "How you do from now until February 26 will determine if you're in the first XI. It's an open slate. Obviously we have some players that we're bringing in, some of the positions are known, but for a lot of the positions, they're up for grabs. And it's going to be based solely on performance. This team is going to be chosen for February 26 based on how guys do from now until then, the week leading up to that game at least."

Each step is geared toward an Audi MLS Cup Playoffs return, with Fire FC not making the postseason since 2017. Hendrickson, hired after being a Columbus Crew assistant coach, is deadset on remedying that.

"My preference is that we bring in the best player available that fits our system and how we want to play," Hendrickson said. "Now, whether that's from within the league or overseas, it doesn't matter to us. We just want the best fit for what we need.

"We have targets in mind. We know what it is that we need, what roles, what holes we need to fill on this team, and we're working tirelessly to fill those positions."