BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Chicago Fire center back Arne Friedrich fondly remembers the days before he was a marked man in the penalty area, when he scored five goals for Hertha Berlin during his first professional season in 2002-03.
Soon, he became well-known as a finisher in the box, and as teams focused more on him, his goal total decreased.
“After that year, it was harder, definitely,” the former German international told MLSsoccer.com.
Friedrich sees a similar progression from his partner in central defense, Austin Berry. The rookie center back scored his third goal of the season last Saturday – the game-winner in the 87th minute of Chicago's 2-1 victory against Toronto – which gives him the third-highest total on the team,
“He has a very good header and very good timing,” Friedrich said. “He’s a newcomer in the league, so maybe he’s not that marked like some other guys. He’s a very good guy, he trains and he always works very hard, so I’m always happy for this guy.”
WATCH: Berry heads home game-winner
Just a few months ago, Berry didn’t know if he would crack the starting lineup this season with Friedrich, Cory Gibbs, and Jalil Anibaba ahead of him in the pecking order to start the year. But Berry knew he’d find the back of the net if he played.
“It’s not really surprising,” Berry said. “I knew I could score some goals. I don’t really set a goal of how many goals I want to score. I just want to be dangerous on every set piece and I want to be organized on every defensive set piece.”
Berry’s knack for the ball doesn’t surprise coach Frank Klopas either. The Fire coach had a front-row view of Berry’s ability when the former Louisville defender played for the Fire PDL team in 2010.
“We knew he was very good in the air obviously and that, whether it’s on the offensive side or the defensive side, that he would be a weapon for sure,” Klopas said. “You look at his attitude, he likes to compete. He’s just so competitive, and those things add up to make a big difference.”
That competitiveness seems to serve Berry well in the penalty area.
“It’s all about your desire to win the ball,” Berry said. “If you get a guy like Pavel [Pardo] and a bunch of guys who can [put] the ball in the box, you’ll be pretty good on set pieces.”