It might not be the regular process new players go through to integrate into a team, but Chicago Fire FC coach Raphael Wicky is encouraged by what he’s seen from the club’s new signings even before full team training resumed Monday.
The players — including new Designated Players Ignacio Aliseda, Robert Beric and Gaston Gimenez — turned the negative of not training as a group for three months into a positive and found a new way to get to know each other.
“It was difficult for me as a coach to integrate these players into our playing philosophy because we didn’t train, but I think the players actually used it well to connect with each other,” Wicky said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday. “We had a lot of Zoom calls and they had calls with each other in smaller groups, there was a lot of interaction. So when I speak to [the players] who are new, they actually said it was very easy to integrate humanly in this group.”
There’s also a bevy of young players with the club — 11 Homegrown players total — who are trying to integrate and earn first-team minutes.
Wicky, who previously coached the US Under-17 national team, has ample experience in this department.
“A lot of those academy guys are very young, they’re 16-17 years old and they benefit a lot from training with us, from being in this group, from seeing what it actually means to be a professional in the daily environment in training,” Wicky said. “Then the rest is competition, that’s how business works, if you deserve to play, you’ll have a chance to play. It has nothing to do with age.”
While Wicky wouldn’t commit to how many young players will make up his roster for the MLS is Back Tournament, he was quick to point out minutes are earned, not awarded.
“I’m not going to give presents,” Wicky said. “That’s not my job. My job is to develop and to win games and make as best as I can for this club. That’s what I’m trying to do independently of the age.”
Wicky knows advancing out of the group is trickier, but that doesn’t change his team’s goal.
“We were drawn into that group and now we’re focusing on the games we have against New York City FC, Nashville and Inter Miami,” Wicky said. “We’re all just happy the league is starting again and we can go and play and compete again.”