Chicago Fire FC coach Raphael Wicky knew waiting for players would be part of the plan

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — Chicago Fire FC fans have been excited by the local flair in announcements of their club’s new signings. Robert Beric’s Chicago Handshake, Boris Sekulic on a CTA bus stop, Ignacio Aliseda on the marquee of the Chicago Theater, Gaston Gimenez as the next train arriving on the Red Line.

While seeing the new players on Chicago landmarks has garnered plenty of social media buzz, having that cast of acquisitons assembled in person may have to wait a bit.

Beric, the club’s new Designated Player forward, arrived for the beginning of preseason. Miguel Angel Navarro, a Venezuelan youth international left back, joined the team for the final days of preseason in Los Angeles. But Sekulic a Serbian right back, Argentine winger Ignacio Aliseda, and Serbian attacking midfielder Luka Stojanovic are all awaiting visa clearance. And Gimenez won't depart Velez Sarsfield until March 5.

The wait for those arrivals is something head coach Raphael Wicky said he understood coming in.

“First of all, I’m very happy with the signings we made,” Wicky said Tuesday. “Second, I knew when I took the job they’re not going to be here by January or by preseason. …I’m looking forward to having them here soon, that’s obviously out of my control.”

The deluge of near-spring signings resulted partly out of basic need following 14 departures from the 2019 squad, and partly from the short time frame Wicky and sporting director Georg Heitz have had to collaborate since both were hired in late December.

On the plus side, he says, those who arrive late won't be facing such a steep learning curve compared to the rest of the quad, since Heitz and Wicky have only had one preseason to impart ideas to those players who were already assembled.

“It’s the same as in the beginning of preseason,” he said of integrating players on the fly. “I’m a new coach with a new staff and we had to, and are still trying to give our idea to the team. A lot of the guys now have worked with us for five weeks, and the new guys … we’ll have to integrate them with our principles and style of play as soon as possible.”

It's possible Wicky will be even more shorthanded for Sunday's opener against the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field (10pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes, MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada) with goalkeeper Kenneth Kronholm and forward CJ Sapong still out of training as recently as Tuesday due to injuries suffered in preseason.

That could leave even more opportunity for newly acquired players to make an impact, something Wicky welcomes.

“The good thing is that a lot of those guys are not coming from vacation, they’re coming from either seasons or…from preseasons,” he said of the yet-to-arrive new signings. “They will have to adjust a bit to our team…that will always take time but I’m excited for them.”

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