Daily Herald
Fire shows its patience as Castillo gets in shape
By Orrin Schwarz | Daily Herald Columnist
Published: 8/26/2010 5:16 PM

Time is not on Nery Castillo's side. Some fans, it appears, also are not on his side.

The Fire's new forward/midfielder did not travel Thursday with the Fire to Seattle for Saturday's game (9:30 p.m., Comcast SportsNet) because recent game action showed he's just not fit yet. Two seasons with little playing time, along with joining his new team at midseason, are the reasons.

"Nery is improving," Fire coach Carlos de los Cobos said after Thursday's practice. "Nery first needs to recover his best fitness level. He is not 100 percent.

"Maybe for next week he's ready to play part of the match."

Judging by some of Internet comments, fans aren't being so patient. Some already have called Castillo a bust.

That's premature.

Part of the problem is Castillo's contract. With a base salary of $1.4 million, $1.79 million in guaranteed compensation, both highest on the team, fans expect production from Castillo.

Part of it is the Fire needs to start winning games soon to secure a playoff berth. Castillo is supposed to help with that.

"Physically, I'm out of shape, I admit that," Castillo told MLSsoccer.com this week. "I didn't do preseason this year so I'm really behind in my fitness level."

So while his teammates are traveling, Castillo will stay in Chicago and work on getting in shape with team fitness specialist Alvaro Birones.

"I stay out here for half an hour or an hour longer than the rest of my teammates," Castillo added. "I'm conscious that I need to recover my fitness right away, it's just going to take me a little while."

The Fire expects its patience will be rewarded.

Who's the new guy? Fire practice has a different feel to it these days.

It's louder during drills with the sounds of players communicating with each other on the field, and it's more lively in general.

That's the lift John Thorrington has provided now that his leg injury has healed.

Thorrington hasn't played since incurring the injury during preseason training, resulting in a frustrating five months for the veteran midfielder. He might see his first action of the season Saturday at Seattle.

"Got a few weeks of full-intensity training in with the guys," Thorrington said Thursday before the team rushed off to catch a plane. "I've been doing a lot of work on the side to catch myself up to speed, and I'm feeling pretty good."

Good things always seem to happen for the Fire when Thorrington is on the field, but he'll be hard-pressed to match the return to action Calen Carr has made the last two games, his first of the season since recovering from a similar injury. The two spent a lot of time on the sidelines commiserating, watching teammates, itching for their chance.

"Yeah, he's killing me," Thorrington joked. "I'm so happy I think that when he scored his first goal particularly I celebrated more for that than I ever celebrated for my own goals. So yeah, I was happy to see that, and hopefully I can have a positive impact as well."

U.S. tickets on sale: Tickets for the Oct. 9 United States-Poland friendly at Soldier Field go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday. Prices start at $25. Tickets can be purchased at ussoccer.org or by calling at (800) 745-3000.

oschwarz@dailyherald.com