Fire with work to do as training camp rolls on

The Fire have two open Designated Player slots and pressing needs in attack after moving on from Robert Beric, Alvaro Medran, Luka Stojanovic and Ignacio Aliseda.

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Fire coach Ezra Hendrickson is working with an unfinished roster during training camp.

Courtesy of the Fire

By dumping nine players after the 2021 season, Fire sporting director Georg Heitz decisively cleared out much of a bad roster and gave the team flexibility heading into the offseason.

But with training camp almost a week old, Heitz and the Fire still have plenty of vacancies.

So far, the Fire’s most notable additions have been veteran defender Rafael Czichos and backup goalkeeper Spencer Richey. And even with the arrival of promising forward Jhon Jader Duran — signed last year but joining now after turning 18 — and likely the Philadelphia Union’s Kacper Przybyłko, there is still a lot of work to be done before the Feb. 26 opener at Inter Miami.

The Fire have two open Designated Player slots and pressing needs in attack after moving on from Robert Beric, Alvaro Medran, Luka Stojanovic and Ignacio Aliseda. They’ve been linked to multiple players, but even Przybyłko comes aboard as expected, the Fire can’t be done with new signings before the season begins under coach Ezra Hendrickson.

“We have ongoing conversations with prospective players and their clubs, and these are situations that we hope to get across the line as quickly as possible, as soon as possible,” Hendrickson said Wednesday. “So we are being patient, but we are starting with the players that we have in camp right now, and it’s been a good first couple days. But we are looking forward to adding some pieces, certainly.”

For better or for worse, it looks like the Fire are repeating what happened during the 2019-20 offseason when they added a handful of players during training camp and in the lead-up to the season. That year, of course, was marred by Heitz coming aboard in late December and then the outbreak of COVID-19, which hurt any chance the hastily and almost-completely rebuilt Fire had to mesh.

This time around, Heitz and the Fire had plenty of time to plot an offseason strategy after it became obvious relatively early last year the 2020-21 core wouldn’t succeed and needed to be jettisoned. Once again, they’re looking for players, and the Fire’s concern is getting the right ones, regardless of whether they last competed in MLS or abroad.

“Well, it’s a combination because, you know, we want to get the best players that are the best fit and whether that be from within the league or from overseas, we are combing the whole globe,” Hendrickson said. “We have some targets, and we’ll see how that goes.”

When MLS-veteran Hendrickson was hired, there was some speculation the Fire would focus more on players familiar with the quirky, challenging and unique league. They’ve been connected to Przybyłko, who started 29 times last year for one of the best-run teams in American soccer, and according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, will be getting him for around $1 million in allocation money.

Hendrickson, though, isn’t yearning specifically for players with MLS on their resumes.

“My preference is that we bring in the best player available that fits our system and how we want to play,” Hendrickson said. “Now, whether that’s from within the league or overseas, it doesn’t matter to us.”

NOTE: Goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina was named to the United States men’s national team for its three upcoming World Cup qualifying matches.

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