BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Pável Pardo is back.
It wasn’t easy for the former Mexican international to sit and watch the Chicago Fire lose three of their last four games while he was out with a calf injury, but he's ready to play on Saturday in a battle for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference against D.C. United (4 pm ET, NBC Sports Network, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
“I’m ready to play,” Pardo told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. “I’m 100 percent. No issues this week. I’m happy to be with the team again.”
The 36-year-old has missed six games with hamstring and calf injuries, but he returned to training late last week. Pardo said he’d be ready to play 60 or 70 minutes.
The veteran holding midfielder’s presence will be a welcome sight for his Fire teammates, who haven’t been able to dig themselves out of holes during the recent rough stretch.
“I love playing with Pável,” midfielder Patrick Nyarko told MLSsoccer.com. “He’s very vocal, he can make game adjustments. I’ve grown very comfortable playing with him, because when something’s not working, he’s quick to make changes to the game.”
The tweaks Pardo makes are subtle, but forward Chris Rolfe said he began to realize how big of an impact the veteran has during his time off.
“Both he and Logan [Pause] are very good at reading the game,” Rolfe said. “Being in the midfield, they have the ability to not only see what’s going on around them but also see what they want changed. They both have that capability.”
With a loss on Saturday, the Fire could slide all the way to fifth place, which would mean a trip to Houston for the play-in game, or they could finish second with a win and play either New York or D.C. in the first round.
Against D.C., Pardo doesn’t think the Fire will have the same kinds of issues with energy or motivation that plagued them against the Union and the Revolution. If they do, his teammates think Pardo’s presence can help fix that problem.
“I see that sometimes, that kind of games, maybe it’s my feeling that sometimes we relaxed like, ‘Ah, we can win those games,’” Pardo said. “Also, if you analyze, when we played New York and Kansas City, the big teams in the league, the team is another team. The motivation is another. That always happens. … Now, we have to win.”