All these guys are back for 2012 except for #23 Josip Mikulic - which is interesting because the new #23 Arne Friedrich is like him but better.
After keeping things low key in February, the Chicago Fire finally went about making some roster moves last week.
March 6, 2012 - Signed Hunter Jumper
March 7, 2012 - Signed Arne Friedrich
March 8, 2012 - Signed Paolo Tornaghi
March 11, 2012 - Waived Pari Pantazopoulos
Thoughts on each transaction and an update on the full roster picture is after the break.
The 23-year-old left back hailing from Plano, Texas was selected 28th overall by the Fire in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft following a standout four-year career at the University of Virginia from 2008-11. While in Charlottesville the 6-2 defender started and appeared in 79 matches, tallying five goals and nine assists while helping the Cavaliers to the school's sixth national championship in 2009.
Jumper is primed to be the LB backup for Gonzalo Segares that didn't really exist in 2011. At 6'2, he figures to continue to get a look at CB too. Chicago Fire head coach Frank Klopas slotted him there in preseason at times. He isn't a speedster but Klopas seems to be comfortable putting him out on the field. That's something that couldn't be said for the supposed LB backup last year: Pari Pantazopoulos
Speaking of which, the open tryout winner of last year was released on Sunday. Pantazopoulos always seemed doomed for release when the Fire needed to give Segares a rest but it never came. When Segares was suspended for yellow card accumulation in August, Klopas turned to Logan Pause at RB and moved normal RB Dan Gargan over to fill in for the Costa Rican.
The Prospect High School product should walk away with his head held high though. He got minutes in the exhibition games against Manchester United and Chivas Guadalajara. That's something I would take away with me forever.
Hailing from Bad Oeynhausen, Germany, Friedrich has represented the German national team 82 times since his first appearance in 2002. During that time, the 6-1 defender has compiled an impressive international resume, playing 13 of a possible 14 games while helping Die Mannschaft to matching third place finishes at the 2006 and 2010 FIFA World Cups. It was in the latter tournament that he scored, tallying in the 74th minute of Germany's 4-0 quarterfinal victory over Argentina July 3, 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa.
He has the international chops to match Fire teammate Pavel Pardo. Friedrich also has the injury issues to match Nery Castillo. The big German claims he is healthy and Chicago's medical staff have given him the okay. The big question is how he'll be deployed. When it looked like defender Josip Mikulic was returning, the Fire central defense pecking order was clear: Cory Gibbs, Jalil Anibaba, then Mikulic fills in. Friedrich begs the question of benching Gibbs to keep a veteran/youth & speed combo or just go all vet with Friedrich and Gibbs. It's a nice problem to have. Klopas still has to get the right rotation in place.
Tornaghi began his career as a youth with famed Italian side Inter Milan in 2004. The 23-year-old ‘keeper began loan spells from the Nerazzuri in 2008, spending two stints with Serie C side Como during the 2008-09 season and more recently during the 2010-11 campaign where he appeared in six league and two Coppa Italia matches. The Inter product spent the 2009-10 season on loan with northern Italian side, Rimini, where he appeared in two league matches and one Coppa Italia match.
His resume reads like a fallen never star but let's be honest. It's a pretty steep drop between Inter Milan and the Chicago Fire. Lest you bag players who have recently played in Italy's lower divisions, Sebastian Grazzini played 45 games for a team in Serie D between 2007-2008. And yes, there's a league that use to be called Serie C2 so Serie D is Italy's 5th division. Tornaghi might be the Fire's backup goalie from the minute he returns to the country. Tornaghi might be the Fire's starting goalie in a year or two. You don't use an international slot for a player that might see the bench a couple of times this year. In fact, if Tornaghi is the third goalie, you'll be hearing some complaints come mid-season. Jay Nolly will likely start this weekend against Montreal with Sean Johnson off to CONCACAF Men's Olympic Qualifying camp today.
Where does that leave things? Klopas said he wants to start the season with 28 players on the roster. Right now there are 27. Draft picks Lucky Mkosana and Tony Walls are still with the team. It's possible Klopas will go over his prediction and sign both players. If I had to guess, the team will sign Walls for more depth on the defensive wings for potential MLS action while Walls plays midfield in Reserves League games. The team will retain Mkosana's college rights as long as they can while he works to finish his Dartmouth degree (much more valuable than a MLS Supplemental Roster contract).
The team maintains one international slot and one senior roster spot. If a trade opportunity opens up (Calen Carr was traded for Dominic Oduro on March 23, 2011), these could come in handy. The team could also make more room by releasing Michael Videira. Videira hangs on to his roster spot by the thinnest of margins as the depth in back line grows. Jumper is slotted as a LB but if Klopas can trust Jumper or potentially Walls at RB, Videira would be the next player to be cut if the Senior Roster gets too crowded.
|Roster Spot||Team||Player||Position||Roster Type||Age|
|Senior (1)||CHI||Barouch Orr||F||Domestic||20|
||CHI||Friedrich Arne||D||International (1)||32|
||CHI||Grazzini Sebastian||M||International (2)||31|
||CHI||Pappa Marco||M||International (3)
||CHI||Pardo Pavel||M||International (4)
||CHI||Puppo Federico||F||International (5)
||CHI||Robayo Rafael||M||International (6)
|Roster Spot||Team||Player||Position||Roster Type||Age|
|Supplemental (1)||CHI||Anibaba Jalil||D||Domestic||23|
|Supplemental (2)||CHI||Berry Austin||D||Domestic||23|
|Supplemental (3)||CHI||Bone Corben||M||Domestic||23|
|Supplemental (4)||CHI||Gulley Kellen||F||Domestic||17|
|Supplemental (5)||CHI||Jumper Hunter||D||Domestic||23|
|Supplemental (6)||CHI||Kinney Steven||D||Domestic||23|
|Supplemental (7)||CHI||Pineda Victor||M||Domestic||18|
|Supplemental (8)||CHI||Tornaghi Paolo||GK||International (7)||23|