Steven Kinney highlights the list of Fire defenders who need to step up in 2013 - Drew Hallowell
With all the roster movement for Fire defenders, we decided to take another look at who could play a big role in the Fire back line in 2013.
Easily the most frustrating thing about covering an MLS club during the off-season is how quickly your hard work becomes outdated.
Oh well, enough complaining.
Another issue that has changed rapidly for the Men in Red is the back line. Ryan Sealock did some positional analysis earlier in the off-season, but some moves and retirements have already changed that.
Cory Gibbs has retired, Dan Gargan was swept up by the San Jose Earthquakes in the Re-Entry draft, and according to Guillermo Rivera of Fire Confidential, Tony Walls is apparently on the way out.
So that leaves the Fire with six true defenders, as well as a couple of wild cards.
Arne Friedrich - What a first season in MLS. 23 appearances and 22 starts for the German international as he quickly became a mainstay on the back line. He's back for the 2013 season, and as long as he's healthy, he'll be in the Starting XI.
Plus, getting a green card means that the Fire now have more flexibility with regards to possible future moves.
Well, that allowed Austin Berry to get his first career start (and goal) against Chivas USA the following week, and the former Louisville stand-out hasn't looked back since, playing every minute of the following 27 regular season matches (and the one playoff match). He was rewarded for his solid season with the 2012 Rookie Of The Year Award.
As long as they both stay healthy (knock on wood), Berry and Friedrich should be stuck like glue in the heart of the Fire defense.
Gonzalo Segares - The Costa Rican left back has nothing but dependable since joining the club in 2005. At 30 years old, age begins to become a more legitimate concern, but it appears he should be healthy for the upcoming season.
Segares started 31 games during the 34-game MLS season last night. Two of those three missed games were the result of a red card in the game prior. He's never been afraid to get involved on the offensive end, and that showed last year as he tallied three goals on the season.
Gonzalo may not be an all-star, but he's not going anywhere. He may face some more competition at left back this year from Hunter Jumper, but the job is his to lose once again.
Jalil Anibaba - Okay, so here's where things get a little bit trickier. The club initially drafted Anibaba in 2010 as a center back. However, due to depth and injuries, the University of North Carolina product has seen some significant time at right back. It appears that's where he'll start at the beginning of the 2013 season.
Anibaba was certainly durable in 2012 as he only missed one game all season, and that was due to the aforementioned Seattle red card. As long as he's healthy, he ought to be able to make it on the field for the Fire in some capacity.
Where that is exactly remains to be seen.
Hunter Jumper - While Jumper only made five appearances in 2012 (and none after July), that number is likely to jump due to Gargan's departure. While it'd be great if the Fire's starting back line could be completely healthy, that's just not all that likely.
Jumper will be looked at primarily as a left back, but he can also play in middle if necessary. Expect for him to get his first MLS start this season.
Steven Kinney - I've called him a wild card in the past in an attempt to be clever, but at this point, it's time for Kinney to step up. The 25-year-old last played in 2010 after suffering an Achilles injury, but it appears he's fully recovered after two seasons of rehab.
The Fire will need him to do well. The loss of the versatile Gargan also creates an opportunity for Kinney, who can play on the right side and at center back.
So those are the pure defenders. Here are a couple of current players who could step into the picture if needed.
Michael Videira - When the Fire announced on Monday that midfielders Corben Bone and Alex were returning, Videira's name may not have seemed as important. But with the Fire seemingly stacked at midfield, Videira's main way onto the field may have to be on the back line. Since the club brought him back, it must mean he can contribute in some way. Or he's really cheap to keep around.
Videira hasn't started anywhere on the field since 2011 and made only a handful of appearances last year, but should Friedrich or Berry suffer an injury, the Massachusetts native will have to be ready to play.
Logan Pause - Another player who may have to get used to a new role due to the midfield addition could be captain Logan Pause. Pause was an ironman last year to put it lightly. He suffered two broken ribs that could have sidelined him for up to six weeks. He was back after three.
It'd be tough to see the Fire drop their leader, which makes a move to right back all the more plausible. It's also possible he could beat out Larentowicz and Joel Lindpere to hold to a defensive midfield role. Who knows? The guy has already done some pretty amazing things in his career as he heads into his 11th season in Chicago.
John Gallagher - With the 30th overall selection in the 2013 Supplemental Draft, the Fire went with the left back from Penn State. Perhaps his chances of making the team aren't ridiculously high, but if the club truly only have six pure defenders on the roster, he's at least got a shot.
Caleb Konstanski – Anytime you can take a player who captained the defending national champions, you get a guy who, at the very least, knows how to win. The Indiana University defender Konstanski, like Gallagher, will likely be a long shot to make the final roster, but he’ll have an opportunity to surprise. Daniel Robertson of MLSSoccer.com and Big D Soccer said last month that the Fire's 68th overall pick in the supplemental draft could be the next Jay Demerit.
The Fire also have yet to release their list of unsigned trialists that were invited to training camp. It's likely the club invited at least one defender who has a shot at making the squad. And with three open international slots, it's not too late for the club to bring in some more depth that way.
What does everyone think? Are the Fire all set on the back line? Or should they make a move for a more proven player?