BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Chicago Fire defenders Arne Friedrich and Austin Berry certainly weren’t ready to start early in the season, when Friedrich was coming off a six-month hiatus after a back injury and Berry was still learning the ropes as a rookie.
But the pair both worked their way into the starting lineup, playing 10 games together with a 7-1-2 record, and both are hitting their stride. Left back Gonzalo Segares, for one, can see the pair’s newfound comfort in the way the defense has been able to pass the ball.
“I think as [Friedrich] keeps playing, he keeps getting better and better,” Segares told MLSsoccer.com. “We’ve built up from the back. It’s not a lot of long balls. With [goalkeeper] Sean Johnson, with Arne, with Pável [Pardo], with Austin, and I think that it kind of ropes around. I can definitely see that [Berry] has matured a lot.”
Friedrich’s impact can also be seen on the offensive end.
As the former German international has become more comfortable with his fitness and his teammates’ ability to cover for him, he has begun to venture forward several times throughout the game, although he said he’s careful when to pick his spots.
While the veteran said he isn’t yet 100 percent back to his old self, he did say that he’s much better than he was early in the season when he picked up a hamstring injury that kept him out for weeks.
“It’s getting better every week, I guess I’m 80 percent,” Friedrich said. “This time, I feel better, and I’m in a better condition than the last time because last time I came from a six-month rest, and now I feel better.”
Berry’s knock has always been that he needs to improve his technical ability. But under the highly-skilled German’s tutelage, Segares noted marked improvement in the rookie.
“He seems way more comfortable, especially for a right-footed guy playing on the left,” Segares said. "I can tell that all that has come from learning from Arne.”