Penalty call spurs Fire's Berry to strong MLS debut

Austin Berry wouldn’t have thought giving up a goal in his first MLS start could help him.

But after the rookie center back fouled Chivas USA forward Alejandro Moreno in the penalty area 21 minutes into his first professional appearance on Friday – a play that led to a penalty kick goal by Juan Pablo Ángel – Berry said he became more comfortable.

“I didn’t have to worry about giving up a goal anymore,” Berry told MLSsoccer.com after the Fire’s 2-1 win. “It helped me settle into the game.”

Fire discuss win at Chivas USA

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He went on to play a game he won’t soon forget.

Two minutes after Ángel opened the game’s scoring, Berry redeemed himself by getting on the end of a Sebastián Grazzini cross and slotting home a one-time shot with his outstretched right foot.

“One thing we talked about before the game was to keep a shutout,” said Berry, who started for the suspended Jalil Anibaba. “Since [the goal] was kind of my fault, to get the goal back and get things back to even, it just helped me settle into the game even more.”

From then on, Berry was solid defensively. He also registered four shots as a constant threat on set pieces.

It remains to be seen whether the rookie has a shot at a permanent starting role – supplanting starters has been difficult on coach Frank Klopas’ team this season. But Berry made a strong case on Saturday.

“It just gives everyone confidence that whoever we put out there at center back will get the job done,” Berry said. “If that’s the only game that I get in, I’m going to be the best teammate that I can be behind Jalil and Arne [Friedrich]. I have full confidence in anybody we put on the field.”

Since he was a raw talent as a freshman at Louisville, Berry’s soccer career has been a learning process. At the very least, he knows Friday’s game was a key step in that process.

“It’s just part of my growing experience,” Berry said. “It’s just good for me to get on the field, to get a feel for what the speed of play is like, and to get the visualization.”

HIGHLIGHTS: CHV 1, CHI 2