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June 30, 2020

Raphael Wicky

Chicago, Illinois

JHAMIE CHIN: We'll go ahead and get started. First of all, just thanks everyone for joining us for what is the final video conference before the team departs for Orlando. As a reminder the team will travel tomorrow afternoon and will begin play in MLS is Back tournament on July 8th against Nashville SC.

Quick note before we begin, this entire video conference is being recorded. Similar to last time, we'll share a link to download the footage once we're finished and we will also share a full transcription of the call. For the Q&A portion if you guys can just go ahead and mute your lines for the time being I would appreciate it, and once we go around the room I'll unmute your line and when it's your turn to ask a question. If you don't have a question to ask, please let us know once your line has been unmuted and we'll move to the next person. So to start things off, why don't we go to Brian.

Q. Thanks for making some time for us today. Much appreciated. Hope all is well. But just jump right into it. Obviously, the situation in Florida is still not looking so great in terms of COVID outbreaks and everything. How much has that been a discussion around the team, and I guess, how much concern is there around the team about the safety of people once they go to Orlando?
RAPHAEL WICKY: Yeah, hi, everyone. Thanks for being on the call. I have to be honest. We have not spoken with the team about this. We obviously, every individual of us, we follow the news, we read newspapers, internet, whatever, and we know that the cases are quite high in Florida, but like I already mentioned last time, we trust the league. I mean, we have agreed to this tournament. We're excited to go to this tournament, but from the beginning we all said we trust that the league wants everyone to be safe and will keep everyone safe. Again, we trust them that they will make the right decision. If they feel that the players and the staff and everyone is some sort of danger or too big danger, we trust them that they will make adjustments or decisions, other decisions.

But so far we have not heard anything and we didn't bring it up with the team. We obviously sometimes speak with the staff, but again, even when we speak with the staff, we just talk about, Oh, have you seen yesterday there was a new peak in Florida? But we don't then go more into further discussions because it doesn't really make sense. It's out of our control right now and we trust the league. I mean, I think that was clear from the beginning. Everyone wants to be safe and that's the most important thing.

Q. Now that you've had several weeks of full-team training, how prepared are you guys now in terms of having contingency plans in case of either positive tests or injuries?
RAPHAEL WICKY: Can you repeat that? I didn't understand. Sorry.

Q. Sorry. After several weeks of full-team training, how prepared are you in terms of having contingency plans in case of either positive tests or injuries?
RAPHAEL WICKY: You mean within the team?

Q. Yeah.
RAPHAEL WICKY: Well, we're, yeah, like you said, we're in, this is what, this is week three of full-team training. I'm very happy with what I see with the team, where we are, knowing from where we come, how much of a break we have all had and how much we will be prepared. We said from the beginning, we're going to do the best we can. We're going to try to push the guys as hard as we can, but also you have to be careful to not run into too many injuries. So far, knock on wood, we are fine. We have two, three little things, which probably a lot of teams will have, but so far we have been fine. The big difference, and that's the unknown, is that you don't have preseason games. Normally, you start the season, like this year we started in Seattle. After six weeks of pre-season and probably we had five, six pre-season games where the guys were able to gain a rhythm, 45 minutes, 60 minutes, 90 minutes two times. So we don't have that. So again, will they be able to play 90 minutes football? I think so. I hope so. As to intensity? I can't tell you that. I have never been through that. How many subs will we need at what minute, I cannot answer that. We prepared them physically. They're in a good spot physical, but they're only in two and a half weeks of full-team training now. That's the reality. But they're in a good spot physically because they run a lot during coronavirus, they had all these exercises to do. But real football training is two and a half weeks. Is that enough? No, it's not enough. But it is what it is. Everyone is in the same boat. Some teams maybe have a week more. Kansas City and those guys, because they started earlier, but they're all in the same boat.

Again, what's the quality going to look like going down there into that heat? I don't know. It's a complete -- it's a blind date. Going into a blind date down there. But we're excited. Look, we're excited. The guys are really excited to come to train. We play, we train hard. Everyone is ready to go down there and we will do the best we can, again, and we will have to make adjustments. And I said in the beginning, normally in these tournaments you need the roster, you will need the full roster. There will be normally a lot of guys with minutes. So, yeah, that's where we are.

And COVID testing is, I mean, we're tested every other day. So far, again, knock on wood we were very, very lucky and disciplined. We had no cases. We hope that it stays that way. And we will follow the protocols should a person get positive, which really, really hopefully will not be the case.

Q. Have there been any players in full-team training that have really stood out to you or really impressed you at all?
RAPHAEL WICKY: Actually, I have to say the team looked good from the beginning. They actually came back out of this, we had probably around, I think it was around 10 or 11 weeks of coronavirus before we started the individual training. The team looked actually good. They came in a good physical point back to those individual trainings. So that means they actually respected the guidance from our health, high performance staff. They did, I wouldn't say a hundred percent, but they did a lot of the things which were required. They did. So we're happy about that.

Obviously, these two and a half weeks now, full-team training, gave us a little bit of time to get to know Aliseda, Gaston Gimenez, Luka Stojanovic or Boris, these guys who haven't trained here much, Miguel Navarro, gave us a little bit of a better understanding of how they are, even we knew them before, but we have never trained them. No, a lot of confirmations, a lot of confirmations. I don't really like to now talk about one player, but Mauricio Pineda has continued to train the way he actually stopped before coronavirus. He was probably a very positive surprise for most of us, for everyone. We're very, very happy with him. We're very happy with him before coronavirus, and I'm actually very happy with him where he is now. But I hope when he reads this, this doesn't make him go to work less. So, but, yeah, and the other guys as well, of confirming, I mean, we knew that Gaston Gimenez has quality, he's a quality player, and he confirms that in the training session.

But the team is working hard. That's what really makes us happy that the team is working hard, working together. We have a good, like I mentioned, a good team spirit and that's going to be very important.

Q. I would like to know how you guys approach, specifically to this tournament considering that there are no guarantees that you will be available to play as to this tournament in Florida, have you talked about this with your players? Do you consider this as the whole season?
RAPHAEL WICKY: No, we have not spoken about that. Honestly, we are, like I said, we're excited to go down there. We are excited to start playing. We are preparing for these three games. We want to be somehow ready even these three -- when Nashville starts, but we also know it's not only preparation for those three games. We hope that there will be a season after, but we don't really talk too much about all of that because it's out of our control right now. I mean, I don't really want to waste energy or meetings or stuff to talk about something which I don't know what will happen. We're very excited now for the tournament. We know we have these three games, hopefully more, and hopefully more after that by end of August when the league continues. But, yeah, like I said, we don't talk too much about the future.

Q. Kind of on a similar thread to the training question, I guess, has any of the, say, the new homegrown players that have been signed recently, have they been making impact in training and do you see any or all of them featuring or in line for their debuts in Orlando?
RAPHAEL WICKY: So we will only have Brian Gutierrez and Jave Casas with us down in Orlando and Gaga, our goalkeeper. Gabriel Slonina. Chris Beatty, Allan Rodriguez and Alex Monis are staying here in Chicago. They will train either here or with our partner club, Madison, which is now in talks, so that they can have good professional-trainings environment. The reason for that is that in the beginning of the season we had to register a certain number of players who are available to play for MLS and we put in there Gaga, Guti and Jave Casas and not the other players. So we can only take all the players who are actually available to play MLS in this season, in this 2020 season, we can take down to Orlando. That's the reason why we are not allowed to take more players, otherwise we would have taken the other three as well. But, so it's better for them to be here and have good training with hopefully Madison, where they can train with men and also hopefully play some games.

In regards to Gaga, look, we have Kenny as our No. 1, we have Bobby as a No. 2, we have Connor as our No. 3 goalkeeper. So Gaga is 16 years old. He's a big, big talent. We're very happy with him the way he trains. Gaga is, Gaga is the future of this club at one point, we all hope. If nothing happens, Gaga will not really get minutes down in Orlando, but that's just how it is.

And Guti and Casas, they are training well, they are available and if I think they deserve to get minutes, they will get minutes. If I think there is a game, there's a moment where I need to put them in or where their qualities help us, then they will get minutes. If that's not the case, then they will not get minutes. But they're 16, 17 years old, so for them to actually train with us every day, to now go and make this experience is really great for them. I forgot, AJ, AJ, is a homegrown. AJ was, I think last year he didn't really play much. He was a lot injured. In the pre-season, AJ came back from the injury, so now since we are back from coronavirus, AJ is fully training. So AJ is an option for us. He's available. He's playing our inter-squad games here every week when we do these games. So he's available, and again, if Jonny B or Miguel Navarro should have something, AJ is clearly an option. And Nick Slonina already is a homegrown as well. He already did a really good pre-season with us. He's training and available for the tournament as well and we will see what will be needed from those guys.

Q. My question is, if you already know the position of each player and the team, if you already have your 11 to put in the first game and if there's an injury or you have to do some changes in the second or third game, if, do you know the rest of the players, the position they play, so they can adjust in the same position that you want them to play as the rest of the players?
RAPHAEL WICKY: I cannot tell you today that I'm a hundred percent sure of exactly which player I will start against Nashville, no. But I have an idea and I have an idea and with my staff we have I think a big core which we already know which should be our core. But, look, we're still, we'll play in-house game here tomorrow, which is going to be an important game for the fitness of the players and then we will see how every player reacts after that two times 45 minutes and then we travel down there. But, yeah, I have an idea, but there is always two, three positions still open, which is good, that's good to have. I have right now good choices, I have not only 11 players, we have a bigger number of players which could be a potential starting player. So this is a good problem for me to have. But I will leave this normally open until the last two, three days before the game.

Q. You guys are going to be down in the MLS bubble for three weeks and possibly even six weeks. How do you deal with, I guess, the emotional aspect of being not just away from families and Chicago and everything, but kind of, I mean it's obviously going to be a very nice setup, but still stuck on this campus. How do you deal with that emotionally and how do you prepare the players for that?
RAPHAEL WICKY: That's a very good question and a very good point and actually a very important point and I don't think any one of us has really gone through that. Three weeks is okay, I think three weeks we can manage. Often in pre-season you go away for about two weeks, sometimes two and a half. Some teams in this league even go away for a whole month or five weeks depending if you're in a winter market and you can't really train at home. So I think that's manageable. The difference is we are actually stopping there and we cannot really leave and when we give them days off they can't really go to the beach or so. So from what I understand is the complex is quite big. Obviously there is like pool areas, there is like some activities which you can plan. And then it's just going to be important to feel the players, to talk to the players. If we feel in that a guy maybe struggles because he's away so much from his family or whatever goes on mentally, we have to listen to the players and maybe sit down and talk to them. I think that it's not always talking about football it's more talking about, how are you. And then as well just to find the right balance in doing team activities, team meetings, team meals and giving them a little bit of time off, even if the time off they cannot really do much or they cannot go outside of this complex. But that will be I think an important point when you're together so long. That's actually like when you are in a World Cup or Euro Cup or in a big tournament, there you are together quite long. Again, there you have sometimes family come, which is not the case, but also there sometimes you have an evening off and you give them time for their own. I think that's going to be important to find that right balance. The nice thing I think is one of the nice things is, I mean the players, most of the players know each other, they have histories with each other in this league, especially the guys who are already longer in this league or if you have South American players, there will be a lot of South American players, so I think it's also good for them sometimes then to hang out with a guy from the same country, maybe they know each other from the past and so that may be some nice moments as well for them to actually catch up with some former teammates.

Q. I think a couple weeks ago you said you guys weren't sure yet, if you had gotten an early morning game, how you would prepare the team like meal-wise and training or like kind of pre-match routine. So now that the schedule is out, what's sort of the preparation going to be like, I think it's Miami you guys play real early in the morning.
RAPHAEL WICKY: Yeah, I mean we're going to provide them three and a half hours or three hours before the game we're going to provide them a meal. I think this meal will have some pasta and rice for whoever wants. There will be some other food as well. But, yeah, we have to treat it like an afternoon or an evening game where you have to actually fill up your body at a certain time knowing not too close to the game so that you're actually not feeling sick when you go out on the field and that's normally three hours is the latest, so three and a half hours before the game we will eat. And, yeah, there is, that's a challenging one because there is so many -- so we play 10:30, then we play 9 a.m. and then we play 8 p.m. again. So there will be, there's a lot of changes in your sleeping patterns, for example, as well. But, yeah, we got to try to deal with those and there's going to be some times where we actually don't really want the players to go to bed too early because they have to play at 10:30 p.m. and then there will be times where we probably want the players to get up quite early because, yeah, we have to play at 9 a.m. So it's going to be limited time to adjust, but we all have to deal with that now, so...

Q. I asked you last time about the unfair rules for Group A and you had said, That's out of our control, so we shouldn't really waste any time worrying about it. Well MLS seemed to get the message that it was unfair and they fixed rules. How happy were you to see that worked out so that the teams in Group A have basically the same shot to go through as the teams in the other groups?
RAPHAEL WICKY: Yeah, very happy, very happy that this happened and again, it's just fair that they did it this way, so the chances are way fairer than it was before and we're happy about that and, yeah, so we're going to give everything to go through.

Q. I just want to know, how big is this challenge for you? I mean, coming to a new club, with a new whole team and, you know, planning before the tournament or before the season and then the pause and now a small tournament where you can win I would say something big for this organization, considering that it's been a long time since the last time they won something like this. So how do you take this challenge and how do you approach from your personnel point of view?
RAPHAEL WICKY: Yeah, it is a big challenge for me, but it's a big challenge for everyone because it's an unknown and we have never been through a season like that. Obviously if you have already worked since two, three, four seasons with the team, not with all your players but with a core, then it's probably easier because you just continue, after a break like we have had with coronavirus, just continue. And we were in the middle or we were in the start of building something, so it is a challenge, but we also, like I said last time, we tried to use some of the time with the staff to create certain videos or certain working on our principles that now actually keep working with the team on those game principles, game philosophy, which we have done and which we are doing. So it's challenging, I just see it as it's part of the process now. We are taking game by game. We're now talking Nashville and then we're talking to Miami and then we're talking to New York City and we're trying to do the best we can in those games. Knowing that there is hopefully a season after that. Building a team takes time, building a team is not going to happen in two or three weeks, we are all aware of that, the club is aware of that, but we were in that situation already in pre-season where we started basically fresh, we were in a good path and I'm very confident that we're going to be on that path again now and then it's going to be a process, like I said, a team is not built in two, three months, that needs some time.

Q. I know that this is kind of going to be a different scenario, just like off-the-field stuff, but as someone who has played and coached in stuff like the World Cup, Euros and the Youth World Cup, outside of winning your first game, what's the key to managing through a tournament like this?
RAPHAEL WICKY: More than ever I think when you are in a tournament so long together is the team atmosphere, the team spirit, the team chemistry. I think that is very important. Of course we need to be on the same page tactically, of course we need the players to be fit and ready, but it's then having a good group of players who actually like being together, like working for each other and that is I think a very important point. And most of the teams who win big tournaments you can normally hear, when you talk to people who were involved, they said, we had an amazing team spirit and team chemistry and not only the best talent always wins. So I think that is going to be an important point and I'm quite positive that we have really good guys who work hard, who fight for each other and that will be an important point. I'm pretty sure we're not the only team who thinks that, who wants that, but that is what I can judge what we see, what we try to create, to have this culture of actually being together and working and fighting together, that's going to be important, next to the tactical stuff, yeah.

Q. I would like to ask you if you have talked to the team in the group or if you are planning to do something about the Black Lives Matter movement in the first game. I know that MLS didn't want to sing the National Anthem in the beginning of the game or any, are you guys planning to do something like wear any specific shirt in the first game when you play the other team?
RAPHAEL WICKY: No, we haven't specifically talked about that, because we will get information what the league actually wants to do and like I said last time, we fully support whatever the league decides to do, we support what our players want to do there. But as a club we haven't talked about something specifically for our opening game and if there will be something. I'm still waiting of information of actually from the league if the whole league will do something together. Whatever the league will do we will support that and we will stand behind that and give our full support, yes.

JHAMIE CHIN: All right, thanks guys, appreciate you all joining us and thank you coach for your time this afternoon. We appreciate it.

RAPHAEL WICKY: Thank you, guys. See you soon. Thank you.

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