Fire’s midfielders fostering a feeling of control in early season
BY SETH GRUEN For Sun-Times Media March 30, 2012 11:53PM
Logan Pause (left) is out four to six weeks with broken ribs he suffered in the Fire's 3-1 victory against the Union on Aug. 12. | Graham Hughes~AP
Updated: May 1, 2012 8:34AM
The midfielders are the glue of the Fire, the most important aspect of coach Frank Klopas’ attack-first style of play.
The numerous scoring chances they’ve been able to create have given the Fire (1-0-1) confidence offensively entering Sunday’s game in Commerce City, Colo., against the Colorado Rapids.
‘‘When we’re organized and compact without the ball, then I think we have a chance to be very good in the counterattack and a very good team in terms of keeping the ball,’’ Klopas said. ‘‘And I think we need to do a better job in the final third, when teams drop off, as far as being better with the ball and being more patient.’’
The counterattack hinges on midfielders and strikers working in unison. The midfield quartet of Sebastian Grazzini, Pavel Pardo, Marco Pappa and Logan Pause has quickly worked the ball to speedsters Dominic Oduro and Patrick Nyarko, who both have started at forward through the first two games of the season.
That couldn’t be accomplished without space to work, which the Fire has enjoyed to an overwhelming degree in the first two games. The first two opponents, the Montreal Impact and the Philadelphia Union, often dropped defenders into the box to counteract the Fire’s speed up front, which gave the midfield the room to place more precise balls.
‘‘How we kind of set up tactically, playing this tight diamond in the middle, we try to find those pockets,’’ Pause, the Fire captain, said. ‘‘But for sure, having the speed we have up top, that stretches out teams and allows for much more stable space.’’
Pause, on the outside, has a much different role than most of the other midfielders on the roster. The Fire likes to use center back Cory Gibbs in set piece situations for his height and ability to redirect balls in the air. That tasks Pause with dropping back into the defense in those situations — one of two players charged with stopping the counterattack because the Fire sends eight forward in those situations.
Though overlooked in last Saturday’s 1-0 win over the Union at Toyota Park, Pause may have made the game-defining play in the 61st minute. After a Fire free kick was a sent into the box, the Union played a long ball back into its offensive third. Pause judiciously went after the ball and headed it back into midfield, eliminating one of the Union’s best scoring opportunities of the night.
‘‘I’m not just back there for any old reason, and they definitely talk about making sure we stop the play,’’ Pause said. ‘‘Sometimes, in that instance, I had to make a play to clear the ball.’’