Among the many difficult decisions Fire coach Frank Klopas faces in preseason training this spring is this: Does he have room in his Starting XI for his captain?
Logan Pause is entering his 10th season with the Chicago Fire, a loyal soldier who steeped himself in the Fire's tradition with honor and passion.
He has been as good a leader as you'll find, taking those responsibilities seriously even before officially being handed the captain's armband last year.
And Pause, 30, is the best of citizens, too. Monday night he was honored by Comcast SportsNet and the March of Dimes for his work in the community, including the Chicago Fire Foundation, Teammates for Kids and St. Jude's Children's Hospital.
In 2009 MLS named Pause its Humanitarian of the Year.
None of that means there will be a spot waiting for him when the first-time father rejoins the team in California on Tuesday after a couple of weeks away from training to be with his wife and newborn daughter Isla.
"We're in a business that is very, very competitive, and I welcome that," Pause said Monday morning.
"It's no different from the previous nine years that I've had."
Pause has never played in fewer than 21 games during his previous nine seasons in Chicago, but this time the former third-round draft pick out of North Carolina knows he's not likely to be in his familiar defensive midfield spot.
When Pavel Pardo arrived in Chicago the middle of last season, that spot went to Pardo, and Pause went looking for a role, first at right back, then, when the Fire traded for Dan Gargan, to right midfield.
"I anticipate that's where I'll be for the time being," Pause said.
But Pause is not a classic winger.
"I'm not, and I think that how we play, we kind of play a tight diamond in the midfield," he said.
"It's not like I'm on the touchline making 80-yard runs up the field. That's just not my game."
It's more the game of Patrick Nyarko, who split time last year between forward and right midfielder but seems to be playing a lot of right midfield in Pause's absence, with newcomer Federico Puppo joining Dominic Oduro up top in a 4-4-2 formation.
That's the problem. If Puppo joins Oduro up top, then either the captain or the speedy Nyarko, a valuable contributor, has to go to the bench.
It's a problem Pause will worry about later.
For now he's just looking forward to rejoining his teammates and catching up on his fitness.
"I think it's going to be second nature," said Pause, who completed a master's degree in sports administration at Northwestern University in December 2010 and hopes to stay in the game after retiring. "I'm doing stuff on my own here in Chicago trying to stay as fit as I can under the circumstances. Two weeks is nothing in terms of the scheme of things. I'll have plenty of time to get back into it."
That's just it. Klopas and the Fire know what they have in Pause. Going on 10 seasons now he's been a reliable cog in the machine.
Not flashy, not a scorer, just an important guy to have on your side, on and off the field.
"I can't believe that it's gone by so quickly," he said. "I'm very honored and privileged that I've been able to represent this club and this city so long."
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