Logan Pause is healthy, fit and ready to play. Now he just has to find a position.
The off-season acquisition of Jeff Larentowicz and midseason signing of Arevalo Rios filled the Fire's central midfield roles, with Daniel Paladini and Alex joining the 11-year Fire veteran as backups. The wings seem set with Patrick Nyarko, Dilly Duka and Joel Lindpere battling for playing time. Jalil Anibaba seems to have right back locked down.
Barring injury or suspension to a teammate, it will be a struggle for the Fire captain to see the field.
"Of course I want to be on the field," Pause said. "It's what I do, what I want to do. But if not called upon, I believe in the guys in front of me. When my number is called ... to start or come off the bench, I'll be ready. But we have good enough players that with or without me we can win."
Larentowicz has been wearing the captain's armband in Pause's absence.
"The leadership is more of a team thing," Pause said. "We've got a lot of guys with a ton of experience. Just because I have a title next to my name, captain, or I wear an armband when I play doesn't necessarily mean we don't have other leaders on the team. It's definitely different what's being asked of me right now. It's definitely challenging me, but it's still making us a better team."
Chris Rolfe and Patrick Nyarko are both back at training and ready to go. Both likely will look for a role as a second-half substitute Friday night against Sporting Kansas City as they try to regain their match fitness.
"Taking the weekend off helped me a lot," Rolfe said. "We did a lot of treatment for my hamstring and we really pushed it hard. I think it was beneficial."
Nyarko dealt with concussion symptoms.
"I'm feeling good," he said after training Wednesday. "Two weeks doing nothing at all was bad for the fitness, but today was better than yesterday. ... I'm absolutely cleared and available for selection. At this point it would be really hard (to play 90 minutes)."
Desperate for a win:
Sporting Kansas City comes to Toyota Park on Friday night for a nationally televised match (7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network) in a game the Fire almost has to win if it wants to stay in the playoff race.
"It's a huge game," Nyarko said. "It's hard to look past this game, but I kind of feel these two games (Sept. 1 against Houston) is our season right there. They are such tough teams to play individually and back to back, it's going to be a challenge. That's what this team is built for. We've got a little bit more depth now and we're ready to take on the challenge."
Added Rolfe: "This is the fun part of the season. You grind all year for this time. This is when you see your true colors, if you guys have really built something as a team or if you're going to crumble."
Central defender Bakary Soumare received a red card after Saturday's loss at New England and will be suspended for Friday's match. Coach Frank Klopas seemed to be favoring inserting second-year player Hunter Jumper into Soumare's spot next to Austin Berry, Jumper's roommate.
"We've worked with Hunter a little bit this week and he played in the Club America game and I thought he did well in the back," Klopas said. "He's good with the ball. He can play out of the back. It's a position he's played before."
The other option is moving Jalil Anibaba to center back and having Pause or Michael Videira replace Anibaba at right back.
"I don't want to make too many changes because I think there's some continuity with where the guys have been playing," Klopas said.
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