Chicago Fire manager Frank Klopas promised last season that his only Designated Player, Sherjill MacDonald, would be a different man after a full preseason in 2013.
Clearly, this isn't what he had in mind.
After hinting for weeks that no spot in the lineup was safe, Klopas decided to start Maicon Santos over MacDonald in Sunday's season-opening 4-0 loss to the LA Galaxy.
“I just look at what's going on in training and trying to figure out what guys are in the moment that are in better form that make better combinations,” Klopas said Tuesday. “When you have some quality depth … guys have to be in form.”
Klopas mentioned after the Fire's Carolina Challenge Cup championship run that Santos was in better form and combined better with forward Chris Rolfe, and it became clear to the Brazilian midway through last week that the starting job was his.
“I was not surprised,” Santos said. “I worked for that. I came here to get my spot, to be able to help the team and be able to score lots of goals.”
Santos missed scoring by inches in the 22nd minute when he connected with a header on a Joel Lindpere cross, then had a free kick tipped away by Galaxy goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini in the 60th minute. MacDonald came on for Santos in the 68th minute, but he hardly touched the ball, and didn't shoot or complete a successful pass in the final third.
Klopas maintained that he's still confident in his Designated Player's abilities. Whether that means MacDonald will start, however, remains to be seen.
“He's still a very good player,” Klopas said. “Nothing's changed my mind. He's going to have a very good year and he's going to be a very good player for us.”