De los Cobos, Fire seek mutual path

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- There was a point early last season when Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos wanted to address his new team as he entered his first year with the organization.

The Spanish-speaking De los Cobos did not know a great deal of English early on, but for anyone who heard him speak during the course of the 2010 season, he picked up portions of the language quickly.

Nevertheless, in his first address to the team, De los Cobos ended up hand-writing his speech in Spanish, it was then translated into English, and Fire technical director Frank Klopas read the English version to the players.

These days, De los Cobos is putting in a good six hours a week into studying the English language. He addressed Tuesday's media contingent in English. And as he typically does when surrounded by a group of reporters, De los Cobos modestly apologized if a few things were lost in the verbal translation of what he truly wanted to express.

The translation dynamic is an interesting perspective from the players' standpoint. If a player is attempting to understand De los Cobos' message and vision during training or heated moments of a game, how much does that affect the translation on the pitch?

"I wouldn't say it's an issue. I would say there's always room for improvement," Fire captain Logan Pause said Tuesday. "You probably talk to the best communicators and there's always room for improvement. When you're dealing with a locker room of now up to 30 guys, and a reserve league that's coming back, it's hard. It's not just coaching the game. You're a manager. You're managing people.

"Coming to a new country, you guys have all known by speaking with him, the language barriers. It's hard. It's an ongoing process. Carlos and I do have a strong relationship. I think last year was not only a learning process for him, but our entire team, of getting to know someone that we're not familiar with from a completely different country and used to a different culture."

The team is saying the politically correct things at training, and now with a year under the helm of De los Cobos, the adjustment phase that lingered for much of last year should be more subdued in theory.

"From last year to this year, I think there's going to be a big change as far as our comfort level and our understanding," forward Calen Carr said. "We have a better relationship, and I think that's going to help out a lot. Obviously last year wasn't our best season, and I think everyone's motivated to turn things around."

Exactly what will be in place for this turnaround is a question mark. Personnel-wise, the Fire have some work to do, and at this stage they will need break-out campaigns from the bulk of last year's returnees.

In the meantime, the Fire's communication level through this opening preseason week is geared more toward work ethic than anything else. That is the message being translated by the likes of Pause and new center defensive back Cory Gibbs as they instill a few things among the young preseason roster.

"It's all about communication," Gibbs said. "You just have to be honest with them. You sit them around and you have meetings with them. You let them know this is what we're trying to do this season -- no slacking off. Our main goal is to win a title. It's a definite possibility. We let them know what it takes through hard work, dedication and doing the small things right. Everybody has their niche on what they do well or not so well."

The adjustment phase is mutual for De los Cobos, who admits that the 2010 season was a trying one for him to adapt to the new Major League Soccer surroundings.

"[I learned] a lot of things," De los Cobos said. "I really want to be honest with you. The characteristics of this league are difficult. Not all players can play in this league. It's difficult. For me as a coach, I learned much about the league, and I know things better than my arrival. It helped me make decisions for the next season, bringing some different players with special skills.

"I need to take advantage of this knowledge I have taken from last season."