Logan Pause injury again raises depth issues for Chicago Fire

Chicago Fire midfielder Logan Pause has been a staple of the Fire midfield dating all the way back to 2003. The club will have to do without their captain for some time now after he picked up a rib injury this past Sunday.

On most teams, regardless of sport, there are players who have a tremendous impact without racking up impressive statistics. They make the players around them better. Only when they're gone can their impact be truly measured.

Is Chicago Fire midfielder Logan Pause an example of such a player? We might be about to find out.

The Fire captain suffered two broken ribs and pneumothorax during the club's 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Union on Sunday night. According to Fire team writer Jeff Crandall, the injury could keep Pause out for four-to-six weeks.

Pause has only scored once so far this season, but it may have the Fire's flukiest goal of the season as a Pavel Pardo free kick went off the captain's back and into the net in an early-season matchup with the Houston Dynamo. Still, the 30-year-old team leader has made 23 appearances this season, all of them being starts, most of them being in a dual holding midfielder role with Pardo designed to suffocate the other team's ability to create possession near the center circle. He's even previously filled in at right back when the club dealt with injury woes on the back-line in a display of his versatility.

So where does the club go from here?

Well, it doesn't appear that head coach Frank Klopas is looking to abandon the dual holding mid formation for a more attacking style. That will likely rule out a player such as Brazilian attacking midfielder Alex from taking that spot.

So here are the most likely nominees:

Daniel Paladini (aka "the safe choice") - Paladini has made seven appearances this season, including one start, which has been quite the drop-off from 2011 when the former LA Galaxy and Chivas USA midfielder made 23 appearances for the Men in Red, of which 16 were starts.

There's nothing particularly wrong with Paladini. He seems to be a hard-working player who isn't afraid to shoot from long distance (the latter of which occasionally elicited some groans from the Fire faithful last year). His main problem seems to be that he's more of a tweener-type player who can fill in from time to time without blowing anyone away (obviously if he were better, he'd probably be starting).

If I had to guess, Paladini will likely be Klopas' choice at first. What happens from that point forward is a mystery.

Corben Bone (aka "the first round flameout") - Remember this guy? If you don't, it might have to do with the fact that he hasn't been all that memorable in his time here so far. The Fire's 2010 MLS Superdraft first round pick has only made 17 first-team appearances since joining the club and has notched zero goals and one assist.

It appears that Bone has talent. But has sitting on the bench for so long affected his ability to contribute? It seems that way since after getting one minute of playing time against FC Dallas on May 23, he failed to impress in a 25-minute stint in his next appearance on July 14 against the Vancouver Whitecaps. He also featured in the Fire's international friendly with Aston Villa, where he didn't appear to have much of an impact.

Will Pause's injury give Bone the opportunity he needs to break out as a quality starter? Perhaps. It's fairly certain that if that doesn't happen, Bone's time with the club might be numbered as the time left on his initial Generation Adidas contract continues to run out.

Michael Videira (aka "the dude who played in St. Louis for a year") - As anyone who knows me might be aware of, when I have the opportunity to make an AC St. Louis reference, I will absolutely take it. And indeed, Videira made eight appearances for the doomed STL side during their inaugural (and only) season in the temporary USSF Division 2 Professional League in 2010.

At the MLS level though, Videira hasn't exactly set the world on fire. He made nine appearances last season, seven in them starts, but only two of those came after former head coach Carlos de los Cobos was sacked in May 2011. In the Klopas era, the Massachusetts native has only made four appearances, three of which came last year. Indeed, Videira's first appearance came on Sunday night as a late substitute after new acquisition Alvaro Fernandez took over for Pause at first. So, at the very least, Klopas still remembers that Videira is indeed on the roster.

(Note: I'm not including Fernandez in these options just because it seems more likely he will continue to start in a more attacking role rather than regularly drop back into Pause's role.)

Now do any of these things make it very likely that Videira will start to see regular playing time? Well, for one, during the 2011 preseason and regular season, Videira appeared to have a penchant for making unnecessary fouls and picking up needless cards. To start with this current roster, that will be one thing that will have to be eliminated from his game.

It's most likely that Paladini or Bone will get first crack at starting, but if they falter, Videira may have an opportunity to make an impact.

Victor Pineda (aka "the first homegrown player in club history") - Now this would be a bold choice. If you're trying to find Pineda's last first-team appearance, don't bother because he hasn't made one yet.

The 19-year-old Bolingbrook native has seen more meaningful action with the United States U-20 team than with the Fire. He's done well with the U-20's, so another consideration might be that if they qualify for next summer's 2013 U-20 World Cup in Turkey, Pineda (if selected) would potentially be unavailable during the tournament which runs from June 21 to July 13 (you could factor pre-event training in there as well).

Then again, if the emphasis is on winning games now, and if Pineda gives the Fire the best opportunity to do it, the question is whether Klopas would be willing to make that gamble instead of taking a safer bet.

Again, these aren't the only options that Klopas has. He could indeed decide to drop Fernandez back into that holding mid role. He could also decide to throw out the current playbook and go with that more attacking formation. He could also technically bring back midfielder Sebastian Grazzini from Argentina to score a bunch of goals while doing the Diego Maradona or Robbie Fowler coked-out celebrations. While those are possibilities, they just don't seem that likely (especially that last one).

So what does everyone think? What do you want the club to do and what do you think will happen?

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