Arevalo Rios and Chad Barrett
USA Today Sports

Arevalo Rios' challenge: Becoming box-to-box force for Chicago Fire while juggling Uruguay calls

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Arévalo Ríos' Chicago Fire debut wasn't flashy.

The newly minted Designated Player (above, right) didn't score a goal or make a pinpoint pass out of his central midfield spot that led to a scoring chance, but then again, that hasn't always been his game. Instead, Ríos put in a solid effort, completing 39 of 42 passes and a couple of tackles in the Fire's 2-0 loss to New England last weekend.

That was enough to satisfy Frank Klopas, at least for now.

“I think he's an experienced player, he's good,” the Chicago Fire coach told reporters on Wednesday. “The thing is his fitness, every game is going to be better.”

Klopas has talked in recent weeks about the different ways he can use Ríos in the midfield. He played as a destroyer for Uruguay and in more of an attacking role for club teams Palermo and Tijuana. Last Saturday, he played a hybrid of the two.

“I defend, but if I need to attack, I can go attack,” Ríos told reporters through a translator. “In the Uruguayan team, I have to be more defensive and in Italy I have to be more offensive, but here, it's a little bit of both.”

With just 11 games remaining, Ríos is playing catch-up with his Chicago teammates, especially considering he'll likely miss three of those games to play in World Cup qualifying with Uruguay next month.

But while the 31-year-old may not be the player he'll be a few games from now, he and Klopas seem confident that he'll be good enough down the stretch to make a significant impact on a playoff run.

“It's complicated, especially because there's only 12 games left and there might be call-ups to the national team, and the team has already been playing so they're already in a rhythm,” Ríos said. “Slowly, I'm getting more rhythm. I think I had rhythm last week, but I think I'm going to have more this week.”

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