ORLANDO – Getting back on the field has been a chore for Raphael Wicky, and we’re not talking about the previous four months.
Just getting their shot to play in Major League Soccer’s return to play tournament has been a chore for Chicago Fire FC. Not only did their first game get postponed due to multiple COVID-19 positive tests on their opponent Nashville SC, but the entire schedule was flipped.
After they dropped out of the tournament, the Fire were moved to Group B, with established franchises in Seattle, Vancouver, and San Jose awaiting them.
Finally, hopefully, the Fire will take the field for an early morning match-up with the reigning champion Sounders at 8 AM on Tuesday. Wicky said he prepared his club to deal with situations like this with the pandemic changing just about everything for the 2020 season and even in the “bubble” in Orlando.
“We said let’s focus on what we can control and let’s focus on the work we put in and on the discipline we put in with being socially distanced,with not getting positive and wearing masks and all that, and let’s focus on the training,” said Wicky of his words to his team. “That’s what we do. That was also the case in these last eight days in which we were not sure which group are we going to be and what day are we going to play, because there was a lot of uncertainty.
“But there was a lot of uncertainty in the last two and a half, three months, so we kind of were used to it.”
At least the spirits appear to be high in training, according to defender Francisco Calvo, who said the team is taking life in the “bubble” in stride despite the recent changes.
” I feel the team (is doing) really, really well. Everybody is happy. I would love to invite you to our trainings, because all the time it’s about atmosphere, excellent coaching staff, and what they bring to us,” said Calvo of the team’s situation in Orlando. “Besides that, we have ping-pong, we have PlayStation.
“We try to do some different things. Also, you have to rest because you’re training in the morning sometimes, and you need to rest. Now we are like three, four days away from our first game.”
At least that’s going to be somewhat familiar, since Seattle was the first of two opponents the Fire got to play before the pandemic shut the season down. In a spirited effort at CenturyLink Field, Wicky’s team got the game tied into stoppage before the Sounders broke through for the game-winner.
“We’ve already played them, some of the analysis we’ve done in February, we probably can use that, but as well again, and I said it multiple times on our calls: How much from March is still the same now in these teams; they also have a three months’ break,” said Wicky of Seattle. “Some of the players who were there in March, may not play now, and maybe now some who were not there in March may play now.”
It’s just another variable for his Fire team to deal with in what has already been a time of change for the club in Orlando.