BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Daniel Paladini looked set for a year buried on the Chicago Fire bench after the club acquired Joel Lindpere and Jeff Larentowicz in the offseason. Already a backup in 2012, something was going to have to go wrong for Paladini to see the field.
It did and he has, and now Paladini may have an extended stay in central midfield beginning with this Sunday's home game against the New York Red Bulls (5 pm ET, ESPN2, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
“We're still trying to find what the right combo is,” head coach Frank Klopas told reporters on Friday. “I think Danny's more of that guy who can defend well, he's got abilities, he's a very fit guy who can defend and mark better.”
Before the season, Klopas professed his desire to play Lindpere in the middle of the field. But it looks like the head coach's patience with that adustment might have only lasted a few games, especially since the club has opened the season with a dismal record of 0-3-1.
Instead of lining up centrally, Lindpere might play on the outside as an inverted winger when the Fire take on his former club at Toyota Park. The Estonian could slide into the lineup for Patrick Nyarko, who looks likely to sit against New York due to a hamstring injury. Another possibility is Lindpere replacing Dilly Duka, who played outside for the first three games of the season but is recovering from a hamstring strain.
“So far from the time that I've seen, with Joel, he's been more comfortable, not wide to the line, a little more tucked in,” Klopas said. “He's not going to stand on the line. We've used him in training there and I think he's looked good.”
Logan Pause could theoretically move into the middle of the field against New York, but it's more likely he'll play at right back after recovering from the multiple injuries that kept him out of commission in March.
With Tim Cahill set to play, and with Juninho and Péguy Luyindula's emergence as dangerous options, the Fire know they'll have to be stout defensively up the middle regardless of if Thierry Henry can play 90 minutes or not.
But Chicago's desire to clog the center of the field with a midfield that is battered and bruised is yet another reason why Paladini may find himself in a starting role on Sunday.
“We have to close down the dangerous areas where they're good. That makes our game easier,” Lindpere told MLSsoccer.com. “I think we've seen that Red Bull has great quality in the center of the field, with Juninho, Tim Cahill and Henry all high quality players in the center of the field. We've got to close it down, and we can maybe force it more to the outside. That's what we need to be more aware of.”