Even though the Chicago Fire were off last weekend, fans could not escape bad news about the club. Matt Polster, who had missed the game against Minnesota, suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain in training, ruling him out of action for 5-6 weeks. As if head coach Veljko Paunovic didn’t have enough to worry about as is, he will now have to figure out who will have to come in at right back.
His options are limited, but there is some depth at the position.
Many expect Ramos to start at right back against Portland, and with good reason, as he started the Minnesota game that Polster was out for. The Brazilian came over from Orlando City in the offseason, involved in the trade that saw Cam Lindley head the other way. Ramos got plenty of time during preseason, as the Fire didn’t want to play Polster too much, who was already dealing with a nagging injury at the time. Although the Fire may not have wanted it to, that decision was the right call in hindsight, as that added time will have helped him acclimate to his teammates to no end. Ramos also seems to be just the type of fullback that suits the way the Fire play. He certainly enjoys getting forward, playing a key role in the teams attack. This means he has his problems coming back on defense, of course, but his raw speed should help negate some of those issues. There have been rumors that Ramos isn’t 100% himself, and was only just able to recover in time for the Minnesota game, if rumors are to be believed. Thankfully, the bye week should have given him plenty of time, allowing him to kickstart his Fire career.
The Homegrown player was Polsters backup throughout last season, and has an outside chance of coming in at right back yet again. Conner had a promising 2017, making his MLS debut after spending a year in the USL with St. Louis FC. His versatility has made him a valuable option off the bench, allowing him to come in at any given situation. Conner could either come into the midfield to help provide defensive cover, or come in as an attacking fullback. He got a majority of his time at right back, and was a decent, if unspectacular, option when called upon. Conner is good on the ball, either driving it forward himself or linking up possession with some smart passes. His troubles come off the ball, as he lacks any real speed, and has difficulty staying with tricky wingers. Conner is still only 24, and has a bright future ahead of him at Toyota Park. Paunovic has showed a willingness to play homegrowns, and might hand Conner a golden opportunity
Do not be shocked to see Ellis make a surprise start against Portland on Saturday. Pauno might feel the need to go with an experienced head in defense, in an attempt to help organize a unit that has conceded six goals in two matches. Ellis got the start at center back against Minnesota, coming in to cover for the various injuries at the position. However, his lack of height was exploited, especially on the second goal, when he missed a clearing header in the penalty area. He has played right back before in Kansas City, and knows the position well enough to go back if need be. His priority lies on defense, making sure he is never caught out too far forward. He does not offer much on the attack, but can whip in a decent enough cross if need be. Ellis would definitely not be the most exciting replacement, but he might be the safest bet the Fire can make.