Fire’s loss to Union shows how much team misses Arne Friedrich
BY SETH GRUEN For Sun-Times Media May 11, 2013 8:35PM
Union goalie Zac McMath makes a save on one of the Fire’s 15 shots on goal Saturday. | Jonathan Daniel~Getty Images
Updated: June 13, 2013 7:29PM
With each passing game, more questions arise as to why the same group of Fire players that led the team to the playoffs last season has been unable to find any continuity in 2013.
After the team’s 1-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union on Saturday at Toyota Park, players shrugged their shoulders when asked why they were unable to win a game in which they were the better team in possession.
But in his most forthcoming postgame news conference of the season, Fire coach Frank Klopas explained why the team has struggled so much.
“One of the things is for sure you’re missing Arne [Friedrich] in the back,” Klopas said. “For sure, 100 percent. His ability to communicate and, over 90 minutes, his ability to dictate, almost, the back line when to move up, to stay connected with the team. Another guy who is good with his feet and able to play the right balls at the right time.”
Friedrich suffered a hamstring injury during the week leading up to the season opener. He spent two weeks in his native Germany rehabbing but injured his hip after returning to training.
When the Union’s Jack McInerney scored off a quick restart, it was clear how much the Fire missed Friedrich’s ability to organize the team.
Combine Friedrich’s absence with an ineffective Fire attack, and the back line often finds itself under tremendous pressure.
“Regardless of how much we’re scoring, we’ve still got to be focused the whole 90 minutes,” center back Austin Berry said.
The Fire was shut out for the fifth time in nine games, but it put 15 shots on goal. Most of them came from Patrick Nyarko, who typically starts at outside midfield. Nyarko played forward in place of Sherjill MacDonald, who has strep throat.
He proved to be the Fire’s best attacking player, which gives reason to believe the move could be permanent. Nyarko hadn’t played as a striker since early last season.
“Most of the other guys think I’m better up there, and I just go out there and do what I do best — try to create a bunch of chances and hopefully finish a few,” Nyarko said. “This week has been the only time I’ve really practiced on top. It’s a different mentality and stuff like that, so I have to get used to it.”