Chicago Fire midfielder Joel Lindpere made it clear Friday: he hopes to play in the middle.
He’s not the only one.
With newcomers Lindpere and Jeff Larentowicz hoping to find a place in a central midfield occupied last season by captain Logan Pause and World Cup veteran Pavel Pardo, the Fire has a logjam in the center of the park.
“I told them that I want to play in the center and I don’t want to play out wide,” said Lindpere, acquired earlier this month in a trade with New York. “I probably already know that this will not happen here. In extreme circumstances maybe it is necessary, but that is not my aim.”
Lindpere, a 31-year-old Estonian, also made it clear that he asked to come to Chicago and he wants to blend in with his new teammates.
“I’m happy when the team does good, and when the team does good and is winning, it will be a happy team,” said Lindpere, hinting at another reason he wanted out of New York. “To play on a happy team and play good, it’s a great thing. I try to do everything for the team, and many times maybe I leave myself behind.
“Maybe I should sometimes be more selfish and stuff, but I try to help the team as much as I can. I try to be good in practice and good in games. That’s what it’s all about. I know when the team does good, I do very good too. That’s the thing.”
Most Fire players reported to Toyota Park on Friday for medical testing before heading to Florida to start preseason training.
Pardo was one of the few not to report. The 36-year-old seems likely to retire, but even his departure won’t completely sort out the situation. Unless the Fire changes its formation, Lindpere, Larentowicz and Pause can’t all start in the middle.
Returning midfielder Alex also could figure into the mix, and the Fire will bring former Columbus Crew midfielder Rich Balchan to preseason training as a trialist. Balchan has battled injuries in his brief pro career.
“We want to create good depth,” said Fire coach Frank Klopas, clearly eager to get started. “It’s a long season. There were opportunities to bring in guys that we feel are very good players and good for the team. I think that’s what we’ve done. I think it’s an important part, down the spine of any team.”
One way to solve the problem might be to move Pause to right back, a position he played briefly in 2011 when Pardo first arrived. That would displace third-year pro Jalil Anibaba but would add needed depth to the back line.
“We’ll have to see,” Klopas said of moving Pause. “He’s got the ability and flexibility to play different roles, but all that is dictated on the filed. You go to preseason for that reason.”
Klopas has six weeks until the season opener March 3 in Los Angeles to figure things out, and the Fire probably will see more player movement in the interim.
Women’s league draft:
In Friday’s National Women’s Soccer League draft, the Chicago Red Stars used the No. 1 overall pick to select UCLA forward Zakiya Bywaters.
Naperville’s Casey Short went to the Boston Breakers at No. 5.
In later rounds the Red Stars selected Lake Forest’s Rachel Quon out of Stanford and South Elgin goalkeeper Taylor Vancil, who played with Short at Florida State.
The NWSL will begin play this spring.
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