BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – For Chicago Fire left back Gonzalo Segares, the road to regaining his form hasn’t been a smooth one.
When Segares left for European shores in January 2010, he did so with an established reputation of being one of the top defenders in MLS. His excellent form during his first stint in the Windy City from 2005-09 earned him regular call-ups to the Costa Rican national team and grabbed the attention of Cypriot side Apollon Limassol.
Segares’ European adventure, though, didn’t last long. After only 12 league appearances, he decided he had had enough and returned to MLS, rejoining the Fire in August.
Chicago expected the 28-year-old left back to give their backline a big boost, but he apparently left his form in Cyprus. Segares struggled and took a while to regain full fitness, which limited him to only six matches before an injury sidelined him for the season’s final month.
[inline_node:331680]“It was definitely hard for me last year,” Segares told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “It was really frustrating.”
Segares carried that frustration into preseason, using it as motivation to work hard with first-year strength and conditioning coach Tony Jouaux to ensure that he began this season in top shape.
“This year, my mentality was to prepare myself well fitness-wise,” Segares said. “Tony’s been a lot of help for me. He keeps us always fresh and always doing exercises to try and prevent injuries. I think that’s something that really helped me through preseason.”
The hard work seems to have paid off. Segares has played well in the first two matches of the season, shutting down reigning MLS MVP David Ferreira in the Fire’s season-opening draw at FC Dallas and performed solidly for most of the Fire’s March 26 win over Sporting Kansas City.
“Overall, I feel pretty happy,” said Segares. “I’m getting better. I don’t feel like I’m at the top yet, but now that I’m playing again as a left back and getting back my legs and my fitness, everything’s feeling better and I’m more confident and will hopefully keep improving.”
Segares’ performances haven’t been lost on Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos, who is more than happy with how his defender is playing, especially in the attack, where he’s combined well and provided good support to dangerous winger Marco Pappa.
“[Segares] has the strength to move forward,” de los Cobos said. “He’s making good work.”
“I’m very satisfied with the performance of Gonzalo,” added the Mexican boss. “He’s an important player. He has experience and he can help the other guys on the field. And when he feels confident, it’s much, much better because he gives confidence to the other guys.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.