Wednesday’s Chicago Fire press conference had a more positive energy to it than previous weeks. Of course, two straight wins and nine goals in the past three matches to reignite a stagnant offense can do that. On Wednesday, Fire head coach Raphael Wicky and defender Johan Kappelhof spoke with the press. Here are some of the highlights:
When asked about the health of Ignacio Aliseda, Mauricio Pineda, and Stanislav Ivanov, Wicky had positive updates on all three.
“Yeah, so Nacho is back in training. He started training again with the team. It seems to be okay. Same with Mauricio. He also trained all week. And Stani is actually training with the team more and more. Today he actually did the full team training, so he’s getting closer and closer. I think we always have to see whether there is a reaction or not. So far he’s been good. He’s looking good. So I think we’re very close (to) reintegrating him full-time in team training and then hopefully as soon as possible as well on the bench again.“
Later, Kappelhof answered questions about how he has responded to dealing with injuries in 2020 and coming back from them.
“So, yeah, beginning of 2020, I played the first two games and then during the quarantine I had an injury and that kept me out for like several months. So that was tough for me as a player. I was not used to being injured. I kept getting setbacks with the injury, like three or four setbacks, so it was tough. Of course you start to doubt, you know, can I come back the same way and will my body hold it.So this year was a very important year for me to prove to myself that I can still do it and be healthy. I worked really hard in the off-season. And yeah, I’m glad that I’m healthy and available for the team and to help the team and playing now, so that’s good.”
Both Wicky and Kappelhof were asked if there are specific players on the Fire who are deserving of All-Star selections now that voting has opened up. Wicky answered in a standard coaching fashion, declining to name specific players. Instead, the head coach commented on how well the team as a whole has been playing.
Kappelhof presented some shoutouts for his teammates, though. Specifically, Kappelhof gave kudos to midfielder Alvaro Medrán and goalie Bobby Shuttleworth.
“I think Alvaro Medrán right now is on fire. He has like, I don’t know how many assists in the last three games, but Alvaro is doing good. I’d like to say Bobby. You know, he saved us a couple of times in important moments in the game. So I think Bobby, as well. Alvaro is doing good now. Yeah, some couple of guys who could make it, yeah.”
Better Play As Of Late
Wicky received a question asking if the mood at training has been better due to the better play as of late. Wicky acknowledged the recent improvement in play but also gave credit to better player health.
“I mean, obviously when you win and have results, the mood is always better around the Club, in the team, in the locker rooms and everywhere. That’s normal. People are happier when they win, we don’t want to lose. And obviously the quality in training or the competition in training is getting (better). But that is more to do with players coming back from injuries, with players getting rhythm again.”
Kappelhof gave credit to the whole team and the work they are putting in during training.
“I think we played with more confidence and we are more solid defensively. I mean, we’ve been working. It didn’t come our way and we kept working on training sessions and we kept believing in ourselves.”
The Mystery of the Fire’s Formation
The highlight of the press conference was both Wicky and Kappelhof being asked about the formation Wicky has been employing. Specifically, Wicky was asked if he would call his formation a three in the back or five in the back. Wicky didn’t give a set answer. Instead, he explained, “When we have the ball, it’s a 3-4-3, 3-5-2, and when we don’t have the ball it’s probably a 5-4-1 depending on where you defend. If you defend in your own half, you defend with the back five. If you go and press higher, you normally defend the back three or back four. So call it whatever you want (laughs). If you want to think very offensive, it’s a 3-4-3. If you think defensive, it’s a 5-4-1.”
Later, Kappelhof answered the same question. He also essentially told us to call it whatever we want.
“This system, you can’t like — you can call it in the way you want it. You can call it five or you can call it three. Some teams play this system more like three in the back and the wingbacks attacking very high and more. Depends, also, like how you want to put pressure and how you analyze a team. That’s the way you can say three or five… But yeah, some people say 5-3-2, some 3-5-2, I don’t know.”
So there you have it: you can call the Fire’s formation whatever you want — the coach and players aren’t even entirely sure what to label it as.