Fire vets taking everything in stride

McCOOK, Ill. -- The Chicago Fire's veteran core players understand the nuances of playing with various coaches and systems.

Whether you're a rookie or a well-traveled player such as forward Brian McBride, you're always required to adjust your game to fit with the vision that your coaching staff and management have in mind.

"As a player, anytime you come into a new situation, whether you're coming to a new team or there's a new coach -- in soccer, players come and go all the time -- adapting is one of the biggest parts," McBride said. "Trying to understand what the coach wants from you as an individual and as a player. So personally I just try to take in everything and listen as much as possible. It's important that you don't try and do too much as a player because that could cause yourself some problems. But you gradually try to grow as a player."

As preseason gets going, it's only natural to wonder how new head coach Carlos de los Cobos' style will resonate with the players. It's natural to question how quickly the team can gel, especially since some new players will have to step up, whether that's in the starting role or off the bench.

"It always takes time," defender C.J. Brown said. "Even if we came back with the same group, you've been off for two months and you've got to come back and just get your feet under you and get your fitness back. I don't think there's pressure to do it now. I know we want to have good performances and we want to have our training sharp. You have to put in the effort, and we're going to pressure guys to put in that effort."

The old "marathon, not a sprint" cliché is so fitting for anyone in the MLS. Most of the league's teams last year had a legitimate chance to make the playoffs. Teams like the Fire had a respectable start while utilizing a good returning core of a players, but then sputtered at the end of the regular season before eventually locking a playoff spot in their final regular season game. Others, such as MLS Cup champion Real Salt Lake, found their footing at the end of the season and surprised many folks when they won the crown.

"Does it matter if you're 5-0 [at the start] but then splash out in the first round? Or if you're 1-4 and you win the MLS Cup?" goalkeeper Jon Busch said. "At the end of the day, you're only measured on what you do at the end. We want to get off to a decent start. What does that mean? I don't know. 2-2? 3-2? 5-0? You can always look back and say that was a good start. But right now it's just day-by-day for us. Let's concentrate on each day of preseason and go from there. If we get better each and every day, by the time the games come around at the end of March, we'll be in good shape."

If it means a few bumpy patches early on before finding their stride in the end, the Fire gladly would accept that notion.