Red Alert: Arne Friedrich Could Be Out For Awhile

Without Arne, Austin's mettle will be tested greatly - US PRESSWIRE

And the bad news keeps rolling in for Fire fans. At this point in the season it has been one cruel blow after another. And the latest player affected (again) is our beloved German International

Fire reporter Anthony Zilis over at mlssoccer.com reported earlier today that Arne had a setback and is injured again. Right now the gaffer Frank Klopas doesn't know when he will be back either. That is ominous news for a team that was figuring to have one half of the A-Team back in action against our bitter rivals this weekend. Instead, it seems that the Fire will be without the center back stalwart for another agonizing period of time.

I don't want everyone to jump to conclusions here, but this tells me Arne could be out for awhile. I would have expected Frank to say something if the injury was fairly minor. Instead, by just leaving it at "not knowing when he will be back", we should prepare ourselves for bad news. Let's hope that is not the case though. It could be that he needs some sort of scan or MRI before Frank can say for sure how long he will be out. In which case we have to hope for the best. Considering there were whispers early this season his injury was very serious, I am wondering whether some nagging issue will continue to plague him.

Sophomore seasons have a tendency to be rocky in many sports for whatever reason. Maybe it's the other team getting a scouting report, so to speak, on a player and making adjustments. It also could be higher expectation for season 2 that may be a bit unrealistic. Whatever the case, young Austin Berry has certainly had a tough go of it without Arne at his side, as is to be expected. A prolonged Friedrich absence will really give the youngster a litmus test for the foreseeable future. While we should temper our expectations as Austin is still only 24, this is the time for Austin to step up and shine.

I certainly have confidence in his abilities. He didn't win Rookie of the Year for nothing. I will be watching him closely, especially these next few games. I want to see Austin start to adopt that fearless leader role that anchors the backline. While it takes years of experience to craft a top notch center back, I believe Austin has all those tools. He has tenacity, hard work, no fear, and physicality. I want to see him grow into that leader role and hopefully even inherit the captain's armband one day.

He had Arne beside him most of last season. That's the gravy part. This year it would appear he will have the scraps until Arne returns, whenever that may be. This is the time to start making the back line his own. While center back depth was not properly addressed this off-season, we have to deal with things as best we can. Who knows, this "growing pains" period early in Austin's career may be one of the best things that could happen to him. Don't get me wrong, I would love nothing more than the A-Team to be out there every game this year. But, in the long run, Austin will hopefully be a better player because of this.

Time is growing short for the Fire to start accumulating points. With the hated Crew rolling into TP on Saturday, a good defensive effort is a must. The Crew have some dangerous pieces. It's even more galling that the Oduro/Duka trade so far has been all one side in favor of Columbus. The defense (especially the full backs) are going to have to be on top of their games on Saturday. And hopefully Austin will help anchor the center of the back line to help bring home 3 Fire points.

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