Arne Friedrich, Dan Gargan prepared to help Fire with Cory Gibbs on shelf
BY SETH GRUEN For Sun-Times Media April 14, 2012 1:04AM
MONTREAL, CANADA - MARCH 17: Cory Gibbs #5 of the Chicago Fire passes the ball during the warm up session prior to facing the Montreal Impact in their MLS match at the Olympic Stadium on March 17, 2012 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The game ended tied 1-1. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
Updated: May 16, 2012 8:23AM
When the Fire learned that veteran center back Cory Gibbs would be out at least four months recovering from the knee surgery he underwent Tuesday, it was devastating news.
Gibbs, a Major League Soccer veteran with numerous national team caps, was a stabilizing presence on the backline and a go-to guy in set pieces.
But if the Fire hopes to accomplish its goals this season, dwelling on the loss of Gibbs isn’t an option.
‘‘It’s devastating to lose Cory for any amount of time, and especially for a lengthy period, it’s going to be difficult to adjust to,’’ center back Jalil Anibaba said. ‘‘But it’s something we’ve got to deal with. We’ve got to move forward, and I think we’re ready.’’
When the team plays without Gibbs for the first time Sunday against the Houston Dynamo at Toyota Park, the backline should get a morale boost from the return of right back Dan Gargan and the much-anticipated MLS debut of center back Arne Friedrich.
Gargan missed the Fire’s 2-0 loss to the Rapids in Colorado with a sprained left toe but has trained all week and said he’s feeling no ill effects of the injury. German defender Friedrich, a veteran of two World Cups, signed during training and has been preparing some four weeks to get into game shape.
Anibaba, who has played centrally and as an outside back, will slide into Gibbs’ spot.
Though the reshuffling of the defensive line isn’t ideal, the Fire believes it is veteran enough to get organized and move forward.
‘‘It’s tough to swallow the reality of injuries,’’ Gargan said. ‘‘They’re frustrating and difficult to deal with. But that’s why you have a lot of players and that’s why you hopefully have depth. Helping guys when they step in and switching the lineup and kind of moving forward as quick as you can and getting used to one another. So having Arne come in and Ja slide over, it’s a transition.’’
Friedrich’s signing was a coup and came with great expectations. But Gibbs’ injury puts even more pressure on the internationally renowned defender, who is known for his ability to quickly clear danger with his big leg.
Friedrich said his fitness isn’t 100 percent, but his goal is to play a full 90 minutes Sunday. He expects to be in top shape after playing in a couple of games and welcomes the expectations placed on him.
‘‘I came here for playing good, and to help the people was my mission, and I will do my best, definitely,’’ Friedrich said.
‘‘I’m looking forward to the game. It’s my first MLS game ever, and I had four weeks in the operation here to meet the guys, to know them. But I can’t wait to play.’’