Fire wrap training, focus on retaining roster

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The Chicago Fire capped off their final training session on Thursday, and now the focus squarely shifts toward head coach Frank Klopas' club making the necessary moves to improve their fate for 2012.

The Fire, who posted a 9-9-16 record and put together a winning record in the final third of the season, anticipate that a bulk of this year's team will be retained for next season. That would be a big change of pace considering how hectic the player movement was after the 2010 campaign.

"We did a lot of that last year," Klopas said of the previous personnel changes. "Obviously we have to look to get better. With the expansion draft (Nov. 23, Montreal Impact) there's a possibility that you might lose a player there. Like any team you're looking to get better. I think we feel very good with the base that we have. Now we've got to continue to build on that, and that's the important thing."

Klopas spent much of Thursday's post-training fielding questions regarding whether key players within the 2011 roster will definitely be back next season.

As of now, midfielder Marco Pappa is under contract through the 2012 season, and midfielder Sebastian Grazzini's one-year contract goes through July of next year. The same tone remains with midfielder Pavel Pardo, who wants to return and the organization wants to see return. But an extension is not set at the moment.

Klopas said that Ghanaian forwards Patrick Nyarko and Dominic Oduro were set with the team for the 2012 season, though the players have not echoed that sentiment.

"It will be up to management to see if I'm coming back or not," Oduro said on Thursday.

"I have another team option for next year that hasn't been picked up," Nyarko said last week. "They have to let me know by Dec. 1, so I'll wait on that."

So there clearly is plenty of work needed in solidifying the pieces for next year, but the overall feeling among the organization is that it wants the core group intact.

"I would love it if management keeps the team because as you saw in the last 10 games we had a great record," Oduro said. "We lost only two games out of those 10, which is pretty impressive. We had it together. So it would be nice to have everybody back. At the same time, you always need one or two players to fill in some gaps, and I think we should be fine."

Reports have recently surfaced regarding the possibility of goalkeeper Sean Johnson going on a trial with Manchester United and forward Orr Barouch heading to Maccabi Haifa (Israeli Premier League). While Klopas did not confirm the validity of those potential moves happening, he does anticipate Fire players in the future training elsewhere to maintain an active offseason.

"In the future, we're going to be doing more things like this because we do have relationships now with other clubs," Klopas said. "With some of the players I think it's important for their growth to be in an environment where they continue to train. We'll be looking to do more things like that with some of our players who want to, because it is a long break."