Coach Raphael Wicky and the Fire have to prepare for games that aren’t officially scheduled. Yes, it’s possible the Fire and the rest of Major League Soccer could resume their season around Aug. 22, but that’s not official.
It’s a tricky situation, but it’s something the Fire have to get through.
“We are now preparing for that date, even though we know we have to be flexible again and maybe they change, maybe it won’t be that day,” Wicky told the Sun-Times. “We will see.”
In the interim, the Fire are training again at SeatGeek Stadium and staying ready for whenever they continue the 2020 campaign. While they wait to find out about the next phase, they likely won’t be playing against other teams in friendlies or intersquad scrimmages, so any rhythm the Fire got into during their three-game stay at the MLS is Back tournament likely won’t last.
That’s especially tough for a team that underwent so much change during the offseason and has been together for only five meaningful games, two of which came in early March when the roster wasn’t quite complete. To compensate, Wicky said the Fire will play plenty of 11 vs. 11 in practice to keep some kind of sharpness, though he knows that doesn’t replicate seeing another team in a competitive setting.
“That’s all we can do right now,” Wicky said. “Those are things we can control and that’s all we’re going to do, not knowing when we’re playing again.”
And when it comes to communicating with his players, Wicky will be honest about what he knows and doesn’t know about the upcoming weeks and months.
“Well, then we’re going to exactly tell them that,” Wicky said. “We’ll say, ‘Look guys, we don’t have any more information than you.’ We are preparing now like we play on the 22nd. That’s what we are doing, and knowing that any day, any week we could get other information and we have to be flexible.”
Unfortunately, communicating with his players about being flexible and dealing with unknowns is something Wicky’s had to handle in his first season coaching the Fire. It’s something Wicky knows he must do again, and at least he knows that his team has reacted well to that kind of communication over the last few months and for different reasons.
Since March 1, Wicky has been transparent about the COVID-19 shutdown and all of its implications. There was the phased restart to training, and even the situation during the MLS is Back tournament when the Fire opener was postponed because of the Nashville SC outbreak, followed by them switching groups.
That transparent communication will continue as the Fire get ready for… something.
“We’re just going to do that, because it’s the truth,” Wicky said. “It doesn’t make any sense to lie to anyone or pretend something.”