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Fire rookie Austin Berry has command of back line

Fire defender AustBerry heads ball away from Galaxy defender David Junior Lopes July 8. | Jonathan Daniel~Getty Images

Fire defender Austin Berry heads the ball away from Galaxy defender David Junior Lopes on July 8. | Jonathan Daniel~Getty Images

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Fire at Red Bulls

The facts: Noon, CSN, 97.5-FM.

Updated: August 19, 2012 6:31AM

Despite the typical adjustment period for rookies, Fire coach Frank Klopas proclaimed rookie center back Austin Berry as a player he expected to be a major contributor just weeks into training camp.

But even Klopas couldn’t have imagined Berry playing as integral a role as he has. Center back Cory Gibbs is out with a knee injury, and Arne Friedrich’s hamstring injury forced Berry, 23, to take command of the back line.

Though Friedrich has returned, Berry again will lead the defense Wednesday, when the Fire visits the New York Red Bulls. Friedrich will be serving a one-game suspension for the two yellow cards he received in the Fire’s 1-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday.

“Just having the guys around me and the coaching staff as well, they’ve made the transition easy,” Berry said. “We’ve been putting in a lot of work, especially lately, on working on the back four, and as time has progressed we’ve become more comfortable with each other.”

Berry scored in his MLS debut May 4 at Chivas USA, starting in place of Jalil Anibaba, who was serving a suspension for a red card in the previous game. Since then, Berry has started every MLS game for the Fire.

“Austin, his attitude has been fantastic,” Klopas said. “We’ve got to still monitor him because it’s been a long stretch for him playing a lot of games.

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