Veteran defender Cory Gibbs underwent successful surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee today at Glenbrook Hospital. The surgery was performed by team orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jason Koh from the NorthShore Medical Group. Gibbs suffered the injury during training on April 4. He is expected to be out until at least July but his recovery might extend into the fall.
Frank Klopas purchased the insurance policy for this case when he signed Arne Friedrich. Things should be okay for now. Gibbs' injury might even make things easier. More after the break.
Gregg Mixdorf - January 27, 2012
Gibbs, while still an excellent player, has been injury prone his entire career. I like to describe him as being held together by duct tape and twine. Cory survives in MLS due to his excellent defensive technical ability and superior football IQ. He does not excel in raw physicality like many of his counterparts. Thus every season you can count on Cory missing time. You will take that when it comes to Gibbs since the rest of the package is so incredibly valuable. Yet you plan ahead and try to pair or back him up with a quality veteran.
If Gibbs' injury came as a surprise, you haven't been paying attention this off-season. Some players come attached with higher injury potential than others. Gibbs, like former Chicago Fire player John Thorrington, is one of those players. The New England Revolution have been a terribly run organization in recent years but today's news is exactly why that club allowed Gibbs' to enter the 2010 Re-Entry Draft despite coming off a 32 point finish.
This is why the Fire had Josip Mikulic going into 2011 and traded for Yamith Cuesta on top of that. This is why the club drafted Austin Berry over a forward in January and signed Arne Friedrich instead of signing a striker in March.
Frank Klopas can insert Friedrich into the lineup with no issues. Friedrich is the superior defender to Cory Gibbs so this was probably going to happen anyway. The questions were if Klopas would have any hesitation in pulling the trigger or how Gibbs' would handle the situation. Gibbs comes across as the ultimate professional but you never know how it might change things behind the scenes.
Austin Berry will get more time with the first team. Berry is the player that projects to be with the team for a few years. Friedrich is openly talking about using the Fire as rehab project. We don't know what kind of shape Gibbs will return to the field in. The 2014 Chicago Fire starting center backs should be Austin Berry and Jalil Anibaba and the scouting reports suggest the Fire should be very fortunate. If Gibbs were still healthy, one of Gibbs, Friedrich, and Anibaba would be on the bench taking up the back-up center back spot. Now, Berry will be the one traveling with the team, building camaraderie, and getting more work with the first team.
Friedrich did not come to Chicago with the cleanest bill of health in his own right. This past September he requested that his contract with Wolfsburg be terminated in part because of his back. He had two slipped discs to recover from. The German defender is back up to speed but what if his issues return? I'm comfortable with a Berry-Anibaba pairing in a year or two. I'm not comfortable with that pairing playing in a regular season game in a week or two. Berry needs some seasoning. A healthy Gibbs and a healthy Friedrich meant smooth sailing for 2012. The waters just got a little choppier.
Klopas also loses some flexibility in his lineups. Friedrich and Anibaba made the most sense because you kept Gibbs' veteran smarts and added extra ability from Friedrich. Anibaba's quick pace helps the Fire maintain MLS' speedsters and his skill set compliments Gibbs' skill set. However, there's no reason why Friedrich and Gibbs couldn't have been tried together at center back. Gonzalo Segares and Dan Gargan are primed to miss time for yellow card accumulation. Anibaba could have covered for one of of them and the Friedrich/Gibbs partnership would have been born. Friedrich himself has been quite the right back in his career. Klopas could have even tried Friedrich in Pavel Pardo's spot since the Mexican international is looking pretty slow so far.
All of that tinkering is now a luxury the team can't afford... unless another center back is brought in.
Some of that tinkering and lineup rotation can be very beneficial. Klopas has stuck to his guns on offense but the back line shifted around more in 2011 than you probably remember. I'm also not sure the front office will be content to be a Friedrich reoccurring back issue away from having a centerback rotation of Anibaba/Berry/Watson-Siriboe/Jumper. Be on the lookout for a trade similar to the one the Los Angeles Galaxy pulled off today. Also revisit March 23, 2011, the day Klopas traded a Supplemental Draft pick for Yamith Cuesta. The Galaxy's 1-3-0 start proves the point that you can never have too many quality center backs on your team. Chicago is very fortunate that Friedrich is ready to step in for their injured 2011 Defender of the Year.