Welcome to the Chicago Fire Cristiano - errr - Pavel Pardo
Never trust Frank Klopas. A scant month ago he told the media that the Fire did not have talks with Pavel Pardo and were not interested. So convincing was he that veteran reporters covering the team repeated that the Fire had no interest in Pardo and that there was no chance he would be in Fire red. Today the team announced they have indeed signed Pavel Pardo to a non-Designated Player contract. His presence will most certainly help in the box office but what does he bring the Fire on the field? Let's take a bit deeper look at what he did during his most recent stint with Club America.
Pardo has been a regular starter for Club America over the last year and a half making 58 appearances over that time frame with 55 of those being starts in Primera League and Copa Libertadores competition. Pardo scored 1 goal and notched 7 assists over that time frame. He is noted for being a more offensive minded defensive midfielder who is an excellent passer. Current opinion on Pardo notes that he is still a good player but is starting to show his age (34). During the Clausura of 2011 America snuck into the Leguilla as the 6th seed and lost in the first round of the playoffs to Morelia 5-3 on aggregate.
During the Clausura of 2011, Pavel made 12 appearances. 10 starts with 2 substitutions for a total of 847 minutes played. He did miss three games with a groin injury during the middle of the season (end of February through the middle of March). He went the full 90 in 6 out of his 10 starts. When he was subbed out it normally occurred between the 60th and 70th minute except for one occasion where he was subbed out at half. His last competitive game was played on May 1st where he was a late game substitution logging 14 minutes. He did not start or make the bench for the playoffs.
Pardo was also a key member of Club America's Copa Libertadores squad. He featured in every Libertadores game except for one (during the aforementioned groin injury part of his season). He made 7 appearances making 6 starts going the full 90 only three games. He logged 464 minutes during Libertadores competition.
Going back to the Apertura of 2010 reveals a much more relied upon Pardo. He started all 21 games that America played during the Apertura (including the playoffs). He went the full 90 in every single game except for the final playoff game against Santos where he was subbed off in the 60th minute. The Apertura was a fairly good season for America (considering their recent finishes) as they were the 4th seed in the playoffs and were a very competitive side.
Pardo will most likely replace Logan Pause in the Fire starting 11. I would expect the Fire to use Pardo in the defensive midfielder role behind Grazini who is going to be in a more attacking role in the center of the midfield. There is a chance that the Fire will switch to a 4-5-1 and continue to start Pause (Paladini is also an option) next to Pardo in the defensive midfield allowing Grazini to push further forward. I would expect Pardo and Grazini to take over free kick and corner duty immediately (one of the bigger weaknesses of the existing squad).
I fully believe that Pardo can help this team as long as he stays healthy and regains much of his 2010 form. Admittedly the bar is currently set fairly low as the team's league form has been unquestionably awful. Can Pardo and fellow new signing Sebastian Grazzini turn this teams fortunes around? They don't exactly have a lot of games to work with to get this team in the playoffs. Continuing to push for the US Open Cup is the first priority. Second priority is to start winning at home on a regular basis. I like that there is a commitment to improving the obvious weaknesses of the team. Hopefully adding these two players will make the rest of the team better. Personally I'm unconcerned about both players not being long term solutions at their positions. The biggest issue with the team currently is the central midfield. If these veterans can stabilize the middle and help create offensive opportunities wins should follow.