Frank Klopas needs Fire's core to keep it together

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BRIDGEVIEW, IL - OCTOBER 12: Logan Pause #12 of the Chicago Fire lcontrols the ball under pressure from Ricardo Villar #11 of FC Dallas during an MLS match at Toyota Park on October 12, 2011 in Bridgeview, Illinois. FC Dallas defeated the Fire 2-1. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Logan Pause; Ricardo Villar

Fire coach Frank Klopas, who officially was given the title in November after taking over as interim coach in May, has a very specific soccer ideology.

He wants his team to play compact, stay within 40 yards front to back and focus on counter-attacking – all important aspects that ultimately rely on cohesion.

Good thing for Klopas that he returns a core of players.

‘‘The players know me – they know me as a person,” Klopas said. ‘‘They had an opportunity to see how I work as a coach.

‘‘It’s early on. We still have to make some decisions on some players, but more than anything is that we’re a committed group.”

The Fire returns a group of talented midfielders in captain Logan Pause, Pavel Pardo, Sebastian Grazzini and Marco Pappa. It’s a midfield group that has proven ability to create chances with their feet.

In the early stages of training camp, which began in Ave Maria, Fla., this past week, Klopas has primarily emphasized fitness. But Thursday morning, he began tactical sessions, particularly stressing continuity between the defense and midfielders.

Entering his 10th season, Pause holds the second-longest tenure in Fire history, and he understands the defensive principles Klopas wants to employ. They require controlling the ball and being solid when the ball is lost on the offensive end of the field.

‘‘He definitely wants to play and wants to be a team that can dictate the tempo of the game through keeping the ball, being incredibly hard to play against,” Pause said.

The most notable addition was Uruguayan forward Federico Puppo, who should add speed in the front. Klopas specifically highlighted Puppo’s ability to move off the ball, a key aspect of the Fire’s style on the attacking side of the field.

Puppo is expected to create – and finish – scoring chances for a Fire team that is already Âefficient on offense. It led the league with 178 shots on goal.

‘‘I felt that last year we were a team that always, in every game, we created opportunities,” ÂKlopas said. ‘‘We have to continue to do that.”

Thus far in camp, the Fire has been without goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who is fulfilling his commitment to the U.S. national team. Johnson played the second half of a 1-0 win against Panama in Panama City on Wednesday.

The Fire has 36 players in camp. Major League Soccer Ârequires clubs to carry between 28 and 30, but the Fire is likely to keep 28.

‘‘We have limited spots, and I think in the end we’re going to have to make some tough decisions,” Klopas said. ‘‘But that’s what it’s all about, and I feel that once we do, that there’s going to be good depth within the team.”

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