BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – It’s a conundrum that has perplexed coaches and fans alike since his arrival in MLS: What is Harry Shipp’s best position?
Shipp has occupied a variety of forward spots in two seasons with the Chicago Fire, appearing out wide for many of his 63 regular season appearances for the Men in Red. But interim head coach Brian Bliss doesn’t think the flank role is Shipp’s best spot, telling reporters on Monday that he sees the Homegrown midfielder as more of a central player.
And despite seeing just seven minutes of action in Bliss’ first two games in charge, the caretaker boss insists Shipp has a bright future ahead of him for his hometown club.
“There’s no doubt,” Bliss said when asked if Shipp would have a more influential role to play in the Fire’s final three games. “Harry’s a good player, he’s not particularly built for wide play, although we’ve stuck him out there. That’s just the nature of it, to get your best guys out there you shoehorn some guys into some positions.”
“Harry’s more suited to the inside, underneath a guy like Gilberto,” Bliss, who celebrated his 50th birthday on Monday, added. “Like I said before, he can play like [Mike] Magee, and he’s got the passing range and vision, kind of like Mike does.”
Indeed, Bliss gave Magee his first MLS start since July 15 in a withdrawn role behind Brazilian striker Gilberto in the 3-2 defeat at Toronto FC on Saturday, with Shipp an unused substitute. After a quiet first half, Magee provided a perfectly weighted pass to put Gilberto through for his, and the Fire’s, second of the game early in the second half.
“Mike didn’t necessarily get it done so much for us in the first half, but I thought he changed the way he played a little bit after we talked at halftime and he helped us connect a few more passes,” Bliss said. “And, obviously, the quick one-touch pass that he put Gilberto in for was kind of what we were looking for in the first half, it just didn’t come to him. So I think every game has its challenges and there’s no set lineup or formation, Harry can do that role as well so it could be an option for us looking at the weekend.”
With Shipp, Magee, Gilberto, David Accam, Kennedy Igboananike, Patrick Nyarko and Jason Johnson all available up top, Bliss will face a difficult challenge in accommodating all of his attackers over Chicago’s last three games. Just as he did in Toronto, he will approach each game, and each selection process, on an individual basis, starting with Saturday’s clash against New England (8:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
“I think every game poses its challenges and one of the challenges we had in Toronto, being on the road and being the second game [in three days], was trying to maintain a little bit of the ball,” Bliss said. “That’s why I dropped Mike Magee in there next to Gilberto, or let’s say underneath Gilberto, because he’s got some good passing sense and he’s more of a [possession] player rather than a turn and sprint type of a guy. That’s one of the things that we’re faced with when you’ve got Patrick, Kennedy, Gilberto and Accam out there, it’s a little bit of a race track. And that’s not to say that that’s not good, but I thought having the ball and having some possession would have been key for us.”