-To kick things off, the Fire finally announced their local broadcast partner today. The Fire will again appear on MY50 (WPWR). Here is the official release with all the details. It will be nice to have the Fire once again shown locally in Chicago, as well as many times nationally via NBC Sports, ESPN2, etc. Dan Kelly will once again be back in the booth, as will newcomer Kevin Egan.
Egan hailed from Dublin Ireland, where he did work as a television sports journalist. This means he has a soccer pedigree through and through, and it will be a nice addition to the MY50 team. Kevin also covers soccer for the Big Ten Network. All of us here at HTIOT would like to welcome you aboard Kevin.
- In a bit of news that may be flying under the radar today from the Kickoff Luncheon at the Hyatt Regency, Alec Kann was announced as the Fire's 3rd string goalkeeper. That clears up one roster question. It looks like James Belshaw will have to ply his trade elsewhere, and that's probably for the best. While he has a great background, the Fire just can't afford to have two International Spots filled by backup GK's. Especially if we need to make a move or two this summer.
- In another bit of interesting news from the luncheon, Tweed tweeted that Logan Pause was announced with the midfielders. Alex was announced with the forwards, which certainly raised my eyebrows a bit. While Logan has long been a midfielder, we all know that Frank Klopas has tabbed him as the starting RB option this year (the Galaxy game not counting obviously).
We have also seen Frank play around a bit with Alex up top, and that move seems to have met with some success in the pre-season. Could this seemingly innocuous comment tip some strategy that Frank is looking at? I can't see Logan going back into midfield unless we are running a 2 DM set. It seems Frank will be moving away from that look, but until Arne is healthy could we see the 'ol 2 DM set? Pause certainly won't start at DM ahead of Larentowicz, so could the gaffer be re-assessing his initial plans? While it may seem like I am reading into things too much (which could be possible), I think we are all a bit concerned at the defensive effort last Sunday without Arne.
In terms of Alex, I do think he has a legit shot at helping up top at times this year. I think Frank saw enough from him in that role in pre-season to consider deploying him as a forward at times this year. The fact that he can also play in a CAM role adds a lot to his value. This could be a sign Frank is looking at Alex up top as a sub very seriously.
No matter how you look at this, as I said the other day it's not time to push any panic buttons yet. I am sure Frank is looking at many different options but it's too early to throw our hands up and re-shuffle everyone. To be honest, I think tinkering early in the year is not a bad thing. Yes, pre-season is for that, but pre-season play is not regular season play. If Frank can tinker around a bit without diminishing our chances to win, I am all for it. Who knows, we may hit on a special combination we hadn't looked at before that helps take the team to another level. It's certainly some good food for thought tonight.
- And this leads me in to the Revs game Saturday. The Men in Red should come out very hungry to not only rebound from the Galaxy loss, but to make a good showing in front of the Fire faithful for the home opener. Unfortunately, Frank is not optimistic that Logan or Arne will play Saturday. The would be a blow for us to be sure. In our favor, we will not be facing a Robbie Keane led offense, but a Revs offense that struggles. That's not to say we can just expect a win and not respect the Revs. But, if I have to choose whether to sit them to be safe Saturday or risk them playing, I rest them every time.
This should call into question an interesting quandary for roster selection. Does Frank try Steve Kinney at CB again? In my opinion, no. I like Kinney, and it's great to see him back. I just don't think you can throw him right into the fray after an injury like that. A handful of pre-season games is not enough to prepare him for full speed MLS play again. I would like to see Steve get some sub appearances and some reserve time. He doesn't have that speed or explosiveness back yet, so you can't play him if it's going ot hurt the team.
I think Frank should put Jalil at CB for Saturday. While he and Austin haven't had a lot of time together in the center, Jalil is a much stronger CB than RB. I think a Berry/Anibaba pairing at the center gives us the best chance to win. Can Kinney handle RB? There are certainly questions about that too if he has limited mobility. The question is, who would fill in? Dan Gargan is gone unfortunately. I did see a few people mention Mike Videira, but he has even less experience at RB than Kinney or Logan, who won't likely be available. Frank will need to figure out something to get the team back on track, get a win and some confidence back, and hopefully make a dent in that goal differential too.
I will be back later this week with my Fireside Chat. Until then, prepare yourselves for the glory that is a Toyota Park home opener.