Chicago Fire v Toronto FC

Looking at Logan Pause’s value after Chicago’s preseason win

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There are lots of reasons to like Chicago this year. The midfield is improved over late last year, especially by the presence of Jeff Larentowicz, who is having an outstanding preseason.

In the central defensive pairing of Arne Friedrich and Austin Berry the Fire have an ideal blend of young talent guided by veteran know-how. Attacking leader Chris Rolfe gets the full benefit of preseason training that he didn’t have a year back.

Young goalkeeper Sean Johnson, about to begin his fourth season as a starter, is getting to the point where we can’t call him “young goalkeeper” anymore.

But there are also other pieces falling into place, like Logan Pause’s changing role.

Injuries are out there over a 9-month season. Believe it. Every team could use versatile men who can fill in ably at several positions, with precious little drop in experience, guile and ability. Pause is demonstrating the ability to be a valuable utility knife for Fire manager Frank Klopas.

Pause, 31, has been a steady starter for Chicago since 2003. His assignment has almost always been at holding midfielder. This year, with Larentowicz and Joel Lindpere brought in to man the center of Toyota Park, Pause has been shifted out to right back.

Saturday, as the Fire defeated Houston to open the annual Carolina Challenge Cup, Pause added yet another option for Klopas, displaying his work at left back.

Fire left back Gonzalo Segares left the match after 30 minutes with an ankle injury. Pause, the Fire captain, had started on the right but shuffled ably across the field as Jalil Anibaba came on to the play the right side.

Anibaba and Pause are competing for starter duty on the right side of Chicago’s back line. (Veteran trialist Pascal Chimbonda could have a say, too, if the Fire find reason to sign the former Spurs, Wigan and Blackburn right back.)

But if Pause can work along the right or left, not to mention providing an emergency chute for Klopas in the holding midfield spot – or an option during busy stretches – that becomes a tremendous value for Klopas and the Fire.

Hilarious “Friends” spoof video ‘starring’ Messi, Ronaldo (video)

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Given the rivalry surrounding the two megawatt superstars plying their trade in Spain, you may be surprised to learn that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are the best of friends.

[ MORE: Top USMNT-Mexico rivalry moments ]

At least that’s what this spoof video conveys, as the Real Madrid and Barcelona stars help each other navigate tax season and toilet troubles.

Brilliant stuff, from FootbOle:

Top USMNT-Mexico moments: Looking back ahead of Saturday

PASADENA, CA - JUNE 25:  Landon Donovan #10 of United States celebrates his goal with teammates Carlos Bocanegra #3 and Alejandro Bedoya #22  against Mexico during the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup Championship at the Rose Bowl on June 25, 2011 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
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You could argue its the biggest match between the U.S. and Mexico outside of the 2002 World Cup’s Round of 16, and there would be few arguments against you.

The United States and Mexico will tangle on Saturday at the Rose Bowl, with the winner advancing to the 2017 Confederations Cup finals in Russia.

It’s only so often that these rivals match up in a “do or die” match. Sure World Cup qualifiers carry critical import, but they don’t always become the decisive moment in the qualifying cycle.

[ MORE: Spurs’ teen shining at center back for U.S. U-23s ]

Aside from the aforementioned World Cup match and the first match in the rivalry — see 1934 below — no other match has carried as much international weight as Saturday.

So with anticipation high, let’s dance backward in time to the Yanks’ best moments in the rivalry. And let’s also imagine what would have to happen to put Saturday in the mix.

(Of course, our apologies to Mexican fans. We aren’t including the times you slapped American soccer in the face).

2001, 2005, 2009, 2013 — “Dos a Cero” to the fourth power

There is no more celebrated score line in USMNT history than the 2-0 hurting it put on Mexico in four successive home World Cup qualifiers.

2002 — World Cup Round of 16

Goals from Brian McBride and Landon Donovan prodded an upset of the world’s then-No. 7 ranked nation, as the USMNT carried a feel of destiny through its best World Cup.

1934 — World Cup qualifier

Aldo Donnelli scored all four goals as the States won the first recorded match against Mexico, and it was a big one. The winner would go on to the 1934 tournament in Italy, while the loser would go on a tour of European friendlies. The States won, and wouldn’t win again until the qualifiers for the 1982 tournament.

2012 — First win at Azteca

It may’ve been a friendly, but Michael Orozco’s finish will go down as the Yanks’ first ever winner in the fortress of Mexico City.

1980 — World Cup qualifier

Though it meant little to the Yanks’ fate in the 1982 tournament — the U.S. finished last in a group with Mexico and Canada — it was the first win over El Tri in 46 years.