BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – When Chicago Fire center back Bakary Soumare stepped off the field and walked toward New England's bench after Saturday's 2-0 loss, which would lead to a red card and suspension, coach Frank Klopas had some complicated decisions ahead.
Early in the season, Klopas would have moved right back Jalil Anibaba over to center back and plugged in Logan Pause, Wells Thompson, or Mike Videira for Friday's game against Kansas City (8:30 pm ET, NBC Sports Network). But in the interest of making as few changes as possible, Hunter Jumper could be the choice to slot in directly for Soumare.
“It's difficult because the matchups are important, and Jalil has been playing [right back],” Klopas said early in the week. “It's easier [to make] one move than two moves sometimes, you know?”
Jumper started his career as a left back, and he played the position in his only MLS start on April 7 against New York, when he assisted Daniel Paladini's first-half goal. But after Chicago signed left back Shaun Francis, Klopas decided the second-year defender would be better suited as a center back.
Jumper, the only reserve center back for the Fire, has played the position in a handful of reserve games and in the Fire's friendly against Club America, and Klopas has been satisfied with what he's seen.
“We have a couple of different options there, and I definitely have the confidence in him if he's chosen,” Klopas said. “We moved him there and he played in a lot of reserve matches, he played against Club America obviously and he did well. If he's in there [Friday], I have all of the confidence he'll be ready to go and do a good job.”
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So against the first-place team in the Eastern Conference, second-year players Austin Berry and Jumper may pair together in the middle of the Fire defense.
That will be a tall order, and communication will be crucial, left back Gonzalo Segares said.
“The guys that direct everything are over there in the middle,” Segares told MLSsoccer.com. “They need to be ready for that, a lot of communication, directing the line, when to step, where to drop, it's key for us to be ready, especially with a team like Kansas City that holds really well the ball and moves it around a lot, and we'll have to be shifting around a lot. We have to be really, really focused.”