Fire newcomer Shaun Francis in right place to play left back
BY SETH GRUEN For Sun-Times Media July 13, 2013 1:06AM
Shaun Francis began his career as a midfielder and has a style comparable to Fire left back Gonzalo Segares, who will miss Sunday’s game. | Jamie Sabau~Getty Images
Updated: August 15, 2013 6:53AM
It’s typically difficult to find starting-caliber Major League Soccer players in the lower-level United Soccer Leagues, but the Fire thinks it might have found its diamond in the rough with left back Shaun Francis.
The Jamaican was signed Wednesday from the Charlotte Eagles ahead of the Fire’s game Sunday in Vancouver, which starting left back Gonzalo Segares will miss because of red-card accumulation.
Segares is adept at overlapping and getting forward, a staple of Fire coach Frank Klopas’ offensive attack. Having started out his career as a midfielder, Francis has that similar ability and is a logical replacement. (However, he cannot play in any Open Cup games for the Fire because he wasn’t on the roster before the start of the tournament.)
‘‘The transition to change from midfield to left back [was made] because I felt more comfortable playing that way, and my coaches back home, they liked the way I attack,’’ Francis said. ‘‘They thought it was a really good fit for me. I definitely love going forward, but defending is a part of the game. So you have to think about that as well. But both sides of the game, I think I’m strong enough.’’
Klopas has the option to move starting right back Jalil Anibaba to the left side. Anibaba has played all four positions in the back line but was often moved because of injuries.
After Anibaba moved from center back to right, his natural position, he struggled with crossing balls into the box. But his offensive game has improved tremendously this season.
‘‘We know he can play different spots, but to have him there and the more he plays in his role, the better he’s going to be,’’ Klopas said. ‘‘It’s more difficult when you move him around.’’
With Klopas set to keep Anibaba on the right side, Francis is the likely starter for Sunday. He played the entire second half of Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to Club América in an effort to get acclimated with the Fire, though most of the players he played with won’t see time Sunday.
‘‘It was a magnificent atmosphere, and I felt good coming in and just helping the team,’’ Francis said. ‘‘Even though we didn’t come out victorious, it was still a good feeling to come out and be a part of this franchise.’’