By now the Fire has gotten comfortable in Ave Maria, Fla., settling into a routine for the club’s first phase of preseason training.
Though this phase is primarily used to work on the veterans’ fitness level and to evaluate trialists and draftees, there are some issues coach Frank Klopas and his assistants need to consider as they work toward the team’s March 3 season opener at defending MLS Cup champion L.A. Galaxy.
1. Where does Logan Pause fit?
Assuming the Fire didn’t trade for Jeff Larentowicz and Joel Lindpere so they could sit on the bench, and assuming that Klopas sticks with his preferred 4-4-2 formation, those two look like they’ll be the team’s new pairing at central midfield. Pavel Pardo’s retirement opened a spot for one of them. Where does that leave the 31-year-old Pause?
“We felt that there was an area in the midfield that we needed to address,” Klopas said on a conference call Wednesday from Florida, being somewhat noncommittal, “and I think we brought some players in that have a lot of experience and have been very good players in this league and brought something different.”
Maybe the best answer for now is to look back to when the Fire first signed Pardo. Klopas tried Pause at right back to keep his captain on the field. It’s not his natural spot, and surely he isn’t as athletic as incumbent Jalil Anibaba, but Pause did fine there.
Klopas also tried Pause at an outside midfield spot, though he didn’t play as a true winger, often tucking into the middle to give the Fire a somewhat lopsided look.
Klopas made it clear he’s happy with the three new veterans on the roster, including forward Maicon Santos with the midfield hub of Lindpere and Larentowicz.
“It’s early, but they’ve come in and they’ve adapted and fit in really well with the group,” Klopas said. “They’re very focused and guys that we knew what we were getting. They’re very good players and leaders with their teams. ...”
“I think the transition has been smooth and easy.”
2. Does the team have enough scoring?
With Chris Rolfe and Sherjill MacDonald likely to retain their starting roles and Dominic Oduro and Santos on the bench, the Fire looks good but not great at forward.
Rolfe scored 8 goals in 22 games last year. MacDonald had 4 in 14 games. Their styles of play seem complementary, and it will help that they will have a full six weeks of preseason training to get to know each other and their teammates. Still, nobody expects the Fire to lead the league in scoring in 2013. Middle of the pack again seems about right.
3. Who will replace Alvaro Fernandez?
Fernandez will almost surely be loaned to a club in Qatar, leaving the left side of midfield open.
“Obviously, we’re always going to be looking at different options,” Klopas said, “but I feel that within our group we have players who can play in different spots.”
Klopas mentioned Alex, Rolfe and Wells Thompson as players who could play on the left side. He did not mention Pause.
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