CHICAGO — Chicago Fire FC's newest designated player received the most Chicago of welcomes last week: snow, wind, and an old fashioned ‘Chicago handshake’: a shot of Malort chased by a can of Old Style.
While Robert Beric insisted that the less is said about that experience the better, on Wednesday at the team’s media day he was eager to talk about what convinced him to trade in St. Etienne in France’s Ligue 1 for MLS and Raphael Wicky’s new project in Chicago.
Beric said he was immediately impressed upon his arrival to Chicago, even before meeting his new coaches and teammates or the hopefully soon-forgotten ‘handshake.’
“In one word, it’s amazing,” Beric said of the city. “It’s difficult to find something like this in Europe with a ‘big city’ impression…for now I’m amazed.”
Beric’s attention has now turned to his role as the center of what will be Chicago's new-look attack under coach Raphael Wicky. It was his familiarity from watching Wicky’s Basel teams and knowledge of the Swiss’ style of play that intrigued him about the move.
“He’s an experienced coach even though he’s young,” Beric said of Wicky, 42. “[He] explained to me that…they are building everything new in Chicago and it was interesting. After four years in France I was interested in a new challenge.”
The Slovenian had scored one goal in 11 appearances so far this season for St. Etienne in Ligue 1 after netting nine goals in 23 league games last season. He said he doesn’t feel any unique pressure in this new opportunity, despite being the club’s first Designated Player signed after Bastian Schweinsteiger, Nicolas Gaitan and Nemanja Nikolic all departed this winter.
“There’s always pressure when you’re new at the club,” Beric said. “People expect a lot from you, and I can say I’m used to it. It’s part of football.”
Wicky said he admires the diverse set of skills Beric brings to the club, describing him as a complete forward. Most importantly, he brings the type of attitude Wicky is striving to bring to the club.
“He’s a goal scorer…he’s very good in and around the box, he’s a typical number 9 who can hold the ball… and he’s a hard worker for the team,” said Wicky when asked about the new striker.
While there are certainly several areas of immediate need on the roster that still need to be filled, Beric is not the only high-profile new addition this offseason.
Midfielder Alvaro Medran, who at age 25 already has significant La Liga experience with Real Madrid, Getafe, Valencia, Alaves and Rayo Vallecano, was signed soon after the end of the 2019 season.
Medran said joining the Fire was an easy decision following a visit where the team made quite the impression in a 4-0 demolition of FC Dallas. Medran, a versatile central midfielder, said he’s ready to do whatever is asked of him to contribute to more positive performances like the one he witnessed last September.
“Ever since I was in the academy at Real Madrid…I played all the [midfield] positions: 6, 8, 10, I’ve played on the wing,” Medran explained via a translator. “Whatever our coach decided and whatever helps the club most, [that’s what] I’m gonna do.”
Even though Wicky wasn’t the coach who signed him, Medran said he’s had a positive first impression of him in the initial training sessions and believes that Wicky and the squad have their sights set in the same direction.
“I think we’re all looking to do the right things, get going, and have good results this season,” Medran said.