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Revamped midfield has Fire thinking big

The Fire’s Alex is defended by NelsRivas Impact Saturday night ToyotPark. | David Banks~Getty Images

The Fire’s Alex is defended by Nelson Rivas of the Impact on Saturday night at Toyota Park. | David Banks~Getty Images

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Updated: February 26, 2013 11:24PM

Though the Fire knows games aren’t won during the offseason, the team is acutely aware that’s when expectations are born.

This offseason, the Fire swung three trades for highly sought midfielders. The acquisitions of Joel Lindpere, Jeff Larentowicz and Dilly Duka immediately made the Fire one of the top contenders for the 2013 MLS Cup.

While the Fire typically keeps its team goals internal, players couldn’t hide their
expectations after their training session Tuesday. The team opens its season Sunday against the Los Ange-
les Galaxy at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.

‘‘To bring that MLS
experience into this team, I think that’s the additions we needed,’’ midfielder Patrick Nyarko said. ‘‘I’m shooting up high. I think we can go all the way. I know the guys are extremely positive to bring a trophy to Chicago this year.’’

The Fire made the playoffs last season for the first time since 2009, but the post-
season ended in disappointment when it lost to the Houston Dynamo in a play-in game at home.

Nyarko is the only incumbent midfielder expected to return to the starting lineup in the same role. He will be joined by Lindpere, Larentowicz and Duka.

The quartet, which forms one of the most talented midfields in the league, will allow the Fire to play more
offensively while staying disciplined in coach Frank Klopas’ defensive-oriented scheme.

While Logan Pause and Pavel Pardo, the Fire’s central midfielders last season, were excellent defensively, they lacked the offensive skills that would have helped the Fire attack more often.

That particularly hurt the Fire toward the end of the season, when the team struggled to score.

Lindpere and Larento-
wicz, who are expected to be the central midfielders, are able to cover more ground in the middle of the field and
recover more quickly when transitioning to defense.

‘‘You always want to
improve and you feel that it’s better, but I think we have to show the results on the field,’’ Klopas said. ‘‘We had a very good season last year, and now the expectations are higher. We need to take the next step.’’

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