FIRE PREVIEW: Keeping Arne Friedrich, Gonzalo Segares might pay nicely
BY SETH GRUEN For Sun-Times Media March 2, 2013 1:20AM
Arne Friedrich (23) and Daniel Paladini of the Fire strip Thierry Henry of the Red Bulls during their match Oct. 6. | Jeff Zelevansky~Getty Images
2013 FIRE SCHEDULE
Sunday at LA Galaxy 4 p.m. Univision
March 9 NEW ENGLAND 6:30 NBCSN
March 16 at Sporting Kansas City 2 NBCSN
March 24 CHIVAS USA 4 Unimas
April 7 NEW YORK 4 ESPN2
April 14 at Houston 4 Unimas
April 20 COLUMBUS 7:30
April 27 at Montreal 3 NBCSN
May 11 PHILADELPHIA 12:30 NBCSN
May 18 at Philadelphia 6:30
May 25 at Real Salt Lake 8
June 2 D.C. UNITED 4 Unimas
June 8 PORTLAND 7:30
June 19 COLORADO 7:30
June 22 at Columbus 7
July 3 SAN JOSE 7:30
July 7 SPORTING KANSAS CITY 2 ESPN
July 13 at Vancouver 11 p.m.
July 20 D.C. UNITED 7:30
July 27 at Houston 7 NBCSN
Aug. 3 at Philadelphia 6:30
Aug. 10 MONTREAL 7:30
Aug. 17 at New England 6:30
Aug. 23 SPORTING KANSAS CITY 7:30 NBCSN
Sept. 1 HOUSTON 4 Unimas
Sept. 7 at Seattle 9 NBCSN
Sept. 11 at Toronto 7:30
Sept. 14 NEW ENGLAND 7:30
Sept. 21 at Columbus 6:30
Sept. 28 MONTREAL 7:30
Oct. 4 at D.C. United 7 NBCSN
Oct. 12 at FC Dallas 7:30
Oct. 19 TORONTO 7:30
Oct. 27 at New York 4 Unimas
Updated: April 4, 2013 6:53AM
For all the buzz the Fire created with acquisitions this offseason that added top-tier talent to its roster, the most important moves came almost immediately after its playoff exit.
Before making a slew of trades, the Fire re-signed center back Arne Friedrich and left back Gonzalo Segares in the immediate wake of its 2-1 playoff loss to the Houston Dynamo.
Bringing back both players kept intact a back line that was the cornerstone of last year’s team, which ended the franchise’s two-year playoff drought. In compiling a 17-11-6 record during the regular season, the Fire allowed 41 goals, tying for fourth-fewest in MLS.
When the Fire opens its season Sunday at the Home Depot Center against the Los Angeles Galaxy, its success again will rest heavily on its ability to defend.
‘‘[Returning the same guys is] definitely helpful because you need time to jell and get used to each other’s tendencies as a back four — your movement, communication,’’ said center back Austin Berry, last season’s MLS Rookie of the Year winner. ‘‘So it’s nice to see familiar faces around. That certainly has helped and given us a higher starting point than we had last year.’’
Among the reasons the Fire was so successful in preventing goals was its commitment to defense. Coach Frank Klopas preaches a disciplined style that requires all 11 players to work cohesively in holding shape.
The Fire’s attacking players know it will help create offensive chances. The Fire, one of the faster teams in MLS, will look to use its speed in transition.
‘‘The DNA of our team is to get turnovers and go on breaks,’’ outside midfielder Patrick Nyarko said. ‘‘I think we do that as well as anyone in this league. So the coaches and everyone this preseason have been coming up with ways to try to defend better.’’
However cliché, the Fire maintains it will always look to improve in all aspects, but none more important than its play in the early minutes.
Throughout last season, the Fire too often gave up quick goals. While the team was adept at mounting comebacks, its early-game shortcomings resulted in poor play in the final month.
In the playoff game against Houston, the Fire allowed a goal in the 12th minute.
‘‘When you look at any team, I think you want to have guys who are committed to without the ball defend and work hard,” Klopas said. “The majority of the game, I would say 90 percent of the game, you play without the ball.
‘‘Obviously we have to look at last year and goals we had given up in certain situations. In order to get better results, we have to have the ability now to defend better.’’