Clearly, a drastic move had to be made. Another might be coming.
The Chicago Fire went to a new pairing at central defense Wednesday night, getting a 0-0 draw against Vancouver as a result at Toyota Park.
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Meanwhile, with less than a week until the Aug. 6 closing of the summer transfer window, rumors abounded at Toyota Park that the Fire was working to sign U.S. World Cup veteran Jermaine Jones, a 32-year-old central midfielder. ESPN's Alexi Lalas reported a deal is near.
"We have interest in the player, for sure," coach Frank Yallop said. "We've spoke to the agent. At this point there's nothing to add until someone agrees or it gets concluded."
Yallop gave captain Jeff Larentowicz, usually the team's defensive midfielder, his first MLS start of the season at center back alongside second-stringer Patrick Ianni. The pair started in back in Saturday's friendly against Tottenham Hotspur following a 5-1 Fire loss at San Jose.
"Switching it up is part of football," Yallop said of the Fire's third shutout of the season. "I thought they did well tonight. Other than maybe winning the game, the most solid we've kind of looked, limiting a pretty potent team to a couple of chances.
"Having said that, then we didn't look as dangerous as I think we've looked at home at times, so it's a fine line."
"I thought we did all right," Larentowicz added. "The shutout was good. I haven't gotten much training back there, but it's a place that I've played for a number of years before, so I felt pretty comfortable. I felt all right."
If Jones does sign with the Fire, Yallop could relieve the logjam at central midfield by leaving Larentowicz on the back line for good. Bakary Soumare and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, who have started most of the season at center back, were on the bench Wednesday but did not play.
"I want to be on the field," Larentowicz said. "I don't mind where it is. (Jones) is a good player. I love to have good players to help out our club, so if that's the truth, then great."
Jones would be joining a team desperate for a jolt of energy to get into the playoff race. Wednesday's draw was the 12th of the season for the Fire (3-5-12, 21 points), which is nearing its league record for ties in a season, 16, set in 2011.
The Fire remains in eighth place in the weak Eastern Conference, 5 points out of the fifth and final playoff spot now held by Columbus. The Crew 6-7-8, 26 points) visits Toyota Park on Saturday night.
Yallop said midfielder Patrick Nyarko is struggling to recover from the knee injury that has sidelined him since May 18.
"We miss Patrick," Yallop said. "... You miss quality, and he's a quality player. He might have made the difference a little bit tonight, but again, you can't stop injuries."
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