Jalil Anibaba, Logan Pause wage heated battle in Fire camp for starting job at right back
BY SETH GRUEN For Sun-Times Media February 14, 2013 10:49PM
Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder David Beckham, left, passes the ball as Chicago Fire midfielder Logan Pause defends during the first half of an MLS soccer match, Saturday, July 9, 2011 in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Richard Hartog)
Updated: February 15, 2013 6:18PM
In two professional seasons, Jalil Anibaba has developed a close relationship with Fire captain Logan Pause, and the 24-year-old defender says it has helped him mature as a player.
But throughout training camp, when Anibaba has taken the field, he has had to remove any personal feelings he has for Pause. The two are competing for the starting right-back position, a battle that has been the focal point of camp.
Pause has spent all 10 of his seasons with the Fire and has been a fixture in the starting lineup.
“It’s part of the profession, it’s part of the lifestyle, and Logan and I have had multiple conversations about it,” Anibaba said. “You have to have that competition within a team, and I think that shows how close our team is and is only a testament to how deep we are.”
The defensive-minded Pause spent most of last season starting as a holding midfielder. But this offseason, the Fire looked to add more offensive talent to its midfield and traded for Jeff Larentowicz and Joel Lindpere, bumping Pause from the spot he has played most of his career.
In an effort to keep his captain on the field, coach Frank Klopas has had Pause play primarily as a defender this preseason.
Pause and Anibaba have split time with the first team at right back. Anibaba started there throughout most of last season.
Klopas has given no indication this preseason whom he intends to start. But he tends to prefer size on his back line, giving the taller Anibaba the edge.
Nonetheless, the prospect of sitting the team’s undeniable leader would be a difficult decision.
“We’ve tried to get very good depth within every spot and in the back line,” Klopas said. “If we can have two solid players in every spot, that would be ideal.”