As the Chicago Fire enter their first true preseason test -- Wednesday's doubleheader against the New York Red Bulls in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. -- one of the biggest questions is: Who will supply Chicago's scoring this year?
The Fire are hoping Uruguayan signings Diego Chaves and Gaston Puerari will fill that void. But naturally, the additions come with uncertainty.
Not everyone who has shined elsewhere across the globe can walk into Major League Soccer and breathe the same success. Case in point, Salvadoran defender Deris Umanzor and, especially, Salvadoran midfielder Julio Martinez did not reach expectations in 2010.
But the Fire are banking on their international scouting to turn some unknowns on the MLS front into the pieces that can create a playoff-bound squad, following the team's second postseason-less campaign in franchise history.
In a short time frame, the league, the Fire and their supporters will have a better picture of what this Uruguayan tandem can bring to the table.
"Diego's more of a No. 9 -- high upfield, close around the box and plays with his back to the goal, mostly," Fire technical director Frank Klopas said. "He's not a small guy -- he's around 6 feet (the Fire listed Chaves at 5-foot-10 when they signed him). He's good in the air, but also very good with his feet and can hold the ball."
"Gaston can hold guys off, can play in the air, can play the ball in open space and can shoot," Klopas said. "They have different qualities. And I think it's good to bring players together from the same country, because they have a good understanding, are comfortable and know each other."
The challenge is bringing that potential compatibility throughout the entire pitch for a Fire squad that was reworked extensively following 2010.
"It's important that chemistry has to develop, and it doesn't happen overnight," Klopas said. "It's a work in progress, and that's why we're emphasizing the work in training, to develop tactical chemistry. We're still not where we should be right now for our players to play 90 minutes. We have to build up to that. We're not physically ready."
Chaves joined the team over the weekend, and the Fire also brought in Tunisian Nadir Taider as a trialist. Chicago recently released supplemental draft selection Amani Walker, and trialists Anderson Costa, Jocian Bento, Fabian Burbano, Evan Schwartz, Jordan Seabrook and Eric Ustruck.
With 21 players signed, the Fire still have some personnel work on the horizon. Klopas said the Fire are in the process of securing one or two more forwards, are looking for central midfield help, as well as focusing on outside defensive back options. Croatian Marko Babic also is being linked to the Fire, with Klopas saying "I think there's interest from him and his agent."
An ESPNChicago.com source said the Fire are looking at Babic as a potential option, but the team is not close to making a decision.
Wednesday's doubleheader against New York takes place at 10 a.m. and noon CT at Lockhart Stadium. The Fire then face Seattle Sounders FC at 1 p.m. Saturday in Bradenton, Fla.
In the Fire's only preseason match to date, the Fire played Florida Gulf Coast University to a 2-2 draw last Thursday.
"I thought the first 30 minutes played were well organized," Klopas said of last week's match. "We had four or five chances where we should have put them away early. But it was our first game. We looked organized and created some chances, so that was good to see."