Fire’s Daniel Paladini, Maicon Santos poking into starting picture
BY SETH GRUEN For Sun-Times Media April 13, 2013 1:04AM
Reserve forward Daniel Paladini (left) was a force last week with a goal and two assists in the Fire’s first victory. | Brian Kersey~AP
Fire at Dynamo
The facts: 4 p.m., Univision
Updated: May 15, 2013 6:40AM
The Fire’s 3-1 win over the New York Red Bulls last Sunday did a lot to alleviate the pressure mounting after the worst start to a season in franchise history.
But it didn’t do much to relieve coach Frank Klopas.
Yes, Klopas was happy to finally get the first win of the season and watch the Fire score three goals after scoring just one in its first four games. But the Fire used reserve players in major roles, forcing Klopas to make crucial personnel decisions heading into Sunday’s game in Houston against the Dynamo.
Starting at outside midfield because of injuries to Patrick Nyarko and Dilly Duka, Daniel Paladini had a goal and two assists last Sunday. Forward Maicon Santos, who entered the game in the 63rd minute, scored twice.
‘‘You have a base that you always go with, but then always the guys that are in good form, you look into that, the opponent, the personnel that they have,’’ Klopas said. ‘‘The important thing for me is I’m hoping to have everyone ready for selection to make our decisions even more difficult.’’
While Paladini and Santos have had opportunities to start this season, the nature of the Fire’s training sessions can make it difficult to break into the lineup. Often, the starters train together and develop a confluence, making it challenging for someone such as Paladini. But he has trained at all four midfield positions in practice, increasing his chances of starting when a midfielder is hurt.
‘‘Whether I was on the reserve team or the first team, I was always a guy that made it very difficult,’’ Paladini said. ‘‘If I was on the reserve team, I made it very difficult for the starting team. I think my teammates can back me up when I say that.’’
Though Paladini and Santos still may be viewed as key reserves long-term, Klopas has a history of starting those who are playing best at the time. That particularly bodes well for Santos. Regular starting forward Sherjill MacDonald has yet to play a full 90-minute game because of a calf ailment that causes him to cramp regularly. That has allowed Santos to appear in all five games this season.
‘‘Everyone, when they step inside the practice field, it’s to make the coaches going crazy and they start to think what they have to do,’’ Santos said. ‘‘Do they have to start us on the first team? So that’s coming from every player.’’