Sure he's young, but his impact has helped turn the Fire into one of the best defenses in the league. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
To say defense is important to this team is like saying rain is important to make plants grow. As a mostly counterattacking team, their offense starts with solid defensive skills. And they are darn good at stopping the opposing offense. They are so good, they haven't let an MLS team score more than two goals against them the entire year. And two of the reasons why this is the case are Austin Berry and Arne Friedrich.
The "A-Team" are one of the best center back pairings in the league. The Fire are an astounding 6-1-2 with those two anchoring the defense; the only loss came at the feet of a Robbie Keane brace. They've also acquired a goals -against average of 0.78 goals per game, which puts the Fire 4th best in terms of goals against average in the league.1 Follow me after the Jump for more on the defense and some training tidbits. And a thought or two on the reserve match as well...
"He's really good positionally," Austin Berry said in terms of what Arne brings to the table after practice. "He knows his position really well. He's played it at the highest level. He's very composed on the ball, and that's something I need to improve on."
"Arne has leadership, the ability to guide these guys," said Fire head man Frank Klopas during his after practice media session. And then you have a kid [Berry] who has a lot of ability. And he's learning within every game. He's getting better and stronger. His commitment to defending is first."
However, Klopas stressed that the success of the defense is not just because of those two. "I think it's the guys next to them, I think it's the guys in front of them. I think it's a whole team effort."
Both Arne and Austin took their cues from their coach, deflecting the praise from themselves and building up the team defense concept. "It's not all about the center backs or the fullbacks. It's about the shape on the pitch", said German International Arne Friedrich. "We work pretty much on that stuff, we always stay in good shape and are always talking to each other."
"It's not just Arne and me. It's Gonzalo and Jalil and Dan- whoever is playing on the right." Berry said. "It's just been the whole focus by the team, defending and getting pressure to guys"
Training and Game Notes
Players named by Frank Klopas on the list to replace the injured Logan Pause were Michael Veideira, and Daniel Paladini; as well as moving Alvero Fernandez back to the position.
Both Marco Pappa and Sean Johnson will be back in time to play Saturday against the New England Revolution after their brief tour of duty with their respective national teams.
Arne Friedrich commented on the debate of friendlies that take place right before the start of the season "In my eyes, the date is not good because they just came out of preseason. And I don't know if it's very good for the crowd in the stadium because somethings aren't that smooth like during the season. You have to take it how it comes. There's no time for complaining."
A note from the reserve match, the most impressive player to me, believe it or not, was Tony Walls. His possession and turning ability from the post position in the midfield is astounding. His body control reminds me a little of Toni Kukoc down on the block. More soccer players should learn to play with their back to a man. He also placed a 40 yard ball on a dime to Victor Pineda right before the end of the first half. You can find out all about yesterdays reserve match at Nick Fedora's match report.
And lastly, Pavel Pardo will wear the captain's armband Saturday. Klopas confirmed- after he finished looking at me like I was a crazy person for asking the question. I completely deserved it.