Striker Robert Beric is the type of figure who builds strong relationships with fans. He’s just waiting for the chance to play in front of Fire supporters in Chicago and bond with them in person.
When the Fire announced his signing in January from French side Saint-Etienne, they did so with a video of Beric downing a shot of Malort, which turned into one of the team’s best-received posts on social media. Beric is also quick with a joke and speaks five languages.
On the field, Beric has scored twice in five games and has shown signs of being a dependable forward worthy of his designated player spot. At 6-2 and 183 pounds, Beric’s ability to leap for crosses figures to be an advantage for the Fire, while his strength gives them reliable hold-up play as teammates arrive into the attacking third of the field.
But because of circumstances beyond his control, Beric hasn’t played once in Chicago. The Fire’s two games before the pandemic paused the season were on the road, their next three were in Florida during the MLS is Back tournament, and if the 2020 season resumes in home markets it’s hard to picture fans being allowed in to watch.
That said, Beric does feel the support of Fire fans, but he’s eager to actually suit up in a home match.
“It’s difficult,” Beric said. “Honestly, it’s difficult because it’s always nice to play in front of your fans, when somebody’s cheering for you, when you have the support. We say that’s the 12th player on the pitch.”
No, Beric and the Fire haven’t played in front of home fans this season, but he did mention an experience with them he appreciated.
When the Fire departed for Orlando, a group of supporters saw the team off, wishing them well in a socially distant style. That moment stuck with Beric.
“I was really happy when we left for Orlando and our fans were greeting us in the parking lot in front of the bus, cheering for us, saying good luck to everybody,” Beric said. “That was one of the nicest feelings.
“It’s difficult to connect, but hopefully we’re going to play soon with them (in attendance).”
Regardless of whether that happens this season, Beric and the Fire are getting ready for another phase of their season. Following their return from Florida after getting eliminated from the MLS is Back tournament, the Fire resumed training in preparation for more games, whenever and wherever they’ll be.
During the practices, the Fire can work on improving and getting used to each other. They can hone their tactics, their discipline in the game, and how they connect when they’re in possession and attacking the opponent.
But at this point, the 2020 Fire have done more preparing than playing.
“We are now doing the third preparation this season, so it’s quite funny,” Beric quipped. “I’ve never had so many preparations in one season.”