At 36, Fires Pavel in great shape for playoff run
Coming off an injury, 36-year-old Pavel Pardo was able to play a full 90 minutes last weekend against D.C. United. The Fire opens the MLS playoffs against Houston at 8 p.m. Wednesday.
Arne Friedrich believes Chicago Fire teammate Pavel Pardo must have fudged his age on his passport.
The 36-year-old Pardo returned from a six-week injury absence Saturday night and surprised everyone by playing the full 90 minutes of a 1-1 draw against D.C. United.
Fire scouting report
Houston Dynamo at Chicago Fire, 8 p.m. Wednesday at Toyota Park
Scouting the Dynamo: Ignore Sunday's 2-0 loss at Colorado. The defending Eastern Conference champion had nothing to play for and rested its starters. Will Bruin led the Dynamo (14-9-11, 53 points) with 12 goals in the regular season, and Brad Davis had 8 goals and 12 assists. Houston played the Fire three times this season, losing once and tying the other two.
Scouting the Fire: The Fire (17-11-6, 57 points) gets homefield advantage for this Eastern Conference playoff knockout game. The Fire hopes forwards Sherjill MacDonald and Chris Rolfe can help it snap out of a drought after scoring just 4 goals in the last five games. If the game is tied after 90 minutes, the teams will play two 15-minute extra sessions, no golden goal, then penalty kicks — if necessary — to decide a winner.
Next: The winner hosts Sporting Kansas City at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
— Orrin Schwarz
"For his age definitely it was a really, really great performance that he could run for 90 minutes, and he didn't look tired," Friedrich said after joking about Pardo's passport. "He's in really good shape and he's working hard on the field and inside the locker as well. He's a professional."
Pardo said after training Tuesday that he feels good and is ready to go Wednesday in the Eastern Conference knockout game against Houston (8 p.m., ESPN2).
"Yeah, I think so," the former Mexico international said. "We're going to see. That's what I said last week. It depends all the time. Every game is different. I have to give everything."
Pardo might not finish Wednesday's match, however, considering the short rest for the midweek game. Plus, the match could go 120 minutes if the teams are tied after 90.
The old switcheroo:
At times Saturday it looked as if Pardo was playing center back and Friedrich had taken Pardo's central midfield spot, joining in the attack. Part of the idea is to switch spots and take opposing defenses by surprise, hoping they leave Friedrich unaccounted for when he leaves his usual spot on the back line.
"We have to do that," Pardo said. "We are experienced guys, experienced players, national-team players and we know how this is."
"It went really good," Friedrich said, noting either Pardo or fellow holding midfielder Logan Pause take his place in back when he goes forward, "and I hope I can support these guys in the offense, but like I always told you, my first goal is to defend."
Still, Friedrich admitted he enjoys the opportunity to go forward.
"Of course, it's so much fun, definitely," he said.
On the spot:
Not surprisingly, the Fire practiced penalty kicks at the end of training Tuesday, just in case they're needed to decide a winner if the game is tied after 120 minutes.
"We practiced the PKs," Friedrich said, "but my opinion is you cannot train (for) that because tomorrow is a different kind of pressure. In practice it's always really easy to score. Tomorrow it will be different if it comes to up to the PKs. I hope that we can avoid it and that we can beat them in the regular time, but we need to fight for everything."
The last time the Fire played in a playoff game, it lost to Real Salt Lake in PKs. That was the 2009 Eastern Conference championship game.
Forward Guillermo Franco did not train Tuesday because of a foot contusion and will not be available Wednesday, Fire coach Frank Klopas said.
That might hurt if the game comes down to PKs, where the Fire had hoped to use the World Cup veteran's experience and shooting ability.
A new U.S. women's coach:
U.S. Soccer announced Tuesday that former Australia coach Tom Sermanni will replace Pia Sundhage as coach of the women's national team, starting Jan. 1.
"He has the knowledge, experience and vision to take on the challenge of keeping our team at the top of the world," U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said in a statement. "He has a tremendous passion for the game, knows the American players, understands our system and knows the process of preparing a team for a World Cup tournament. We're tremendously excited to have him on board as we look forward to qualification for the 2015 Women's World Cup."
Follow Orrin on Twitter @Orrin_Schwarz.
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