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Fire looks to backup options with Marco Pappa fighting illness

Outside midfielder Marco Papp(with Fire coach Frank Klopas) reportedly has respiratory infection. | Ed Zurga~Getty Images

Outside midfielder Marco Pappa (with Fire coach Frank Klopas) reportedly has a respiratory infection. | Ed Zurga~Getty Images

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Updated: August 15, 2012 6:11AM

Among the reasons the Fire is in the discussion to win the Supporters’ Shield this season after missing the playoffs the last two years is because coach Frank Klopas has been so even-handed.

Lose big or win big, his demeanor has been the same.

So when he got news Friday that outside midfielder Marco Pappa, arguably the Fire’s best player, would miss Saturday’s game against the Vancouver Whitecaps at Toyota Park with what’s believed to be an upper respiratory infection, Klopas was calm and confident that a number of players could fill the void.

The likely choice to replace Pappa on the outside is Chris Rolfe, who has played centrally since rejoining the Fire this season but played as an outside midfielder with Danish Superliga side Aalborg BK. That also would open a starting spot for Brazilian Alex Monteiro de Lima.

‘‘Alex is probably more suitable on the inside, as an underneath guy, second striker, where he plays where he can find the space and be more in the middle,’’ Klopas said. ‘‘But I think Rolfe is comfortable out wide or in the middle, and I think their ability to interchange at any point during the game gives us the flexibility.’’

As of Friday morning, Pappa was home with a fever but was considered questionable, giving strong reason to believe he’ll be back when the Fire faces the Red Bulls on Wednesday in New York.

Rolfe began preparations to play outside on Thursday when the team first learned Pappa was sick. It made for a busy two days of training for the versatile Rolfe.

‘‘Instead of focusing on the role I was playing last game, obviously I take a dual approach and kind of prepare for both situations and kind of think about the situations I’ll be in, in each one of those positions,’’ Rolfe said.

The 23-year-old Alex, meanwhile, is likely to make his first MLS start after coming in as a substitute the last three games.

‘‘How long he lasts, we’ll have to see,’’ Klopas said. ‘‘But we have guys that can step in. So we just have to see. But we definitely feel from a fitness standpoint that he would be ready to start.’’

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