Logan Pause

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.

Chicago, Columbus ready to swap Dominic Oduro and Dilly Duka

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It may not seem like Chicago needs another midfielder, but according to reports in the midwest, they’re about to get one. The Fire look set to send attacker Dominic Oduro to Columbus for Dilly Duka, with the Columbus Dispatch reporting the deal is done.

The Fire has already acquired Jeff Larentowicz and Joel Lindpere this offseason, with holdovers Daniel Paladini, Wells Thompson, Alex, and the seemingly right back-bound Logan Pause already forcing Frank Klopas into some improvised solutions. Decisions about how to use attackers like Patrick Nyarko and Chris Rolfe also get pulled into this crowded picture, with Designated Player Sherjill MacDonald likely to be Klopas’s first choice up top.

That crunch is part of the reason Oduro’s moving on. The Ghanian attacker exploded for 12 goals in 2604 minutes after coming over from Houston in 2011, but with more competition for spots in 2012, Oduro slipped to six goals and 1823 minutes.

Though Oduro is four years older than Duka, this seems like a shrewd acquisition for Columbus. Oduro may be the perfect type of guy to come in and spell either Federico Higuaín or Jairo Arrieta, Columbus’s first choice attackers. He’s been far more productive than Duka while making almost the same amount of money (something that may be different for the coming season). While he can’t replace Higuaín’s playmaking ability, he does allow Robert Warzycha to maintain a viable attacking tandem when the Argentine is out.

The main things Columbus give up are youth and promise, but it may be worth it. Duka has provided glimpses of somebody who could provide a needed spark to Columbus’s midfield, but he never established a consistent place in the team (averaging 21 appearances over the last two seasons).

Chicago seems willing to gamble that the talent that made him a U.S. U-20 regular four years ago can still come good. If it doesn’t, Chicago’s merely added to their midfield logjam.

Interesting lineup selection from Chicago’s preseason opener

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When it comes to dissecting the double-top secret plans of MLS managers for the coming season, nobody should get too carried away, obviously, with analysis of lineup choices in January.

That said …

The selections might tell us something, along the lines of future possibilities and potential experiments, if nothing else.

So we look at the Chicago Fire’s 2-0 win Sunday over Florida Gulf Coast University. The starting lineup (for the first of three 30-minute periods) looked like this:

  • Alec Kann*, Logan Pause  (captain), Jalil Anibaba, Austin Berry, Gonzalo Segares; Alex, Jeff Larentowicz, Joel Lindpere, Wells Thompson; Chris Rolfe, Sherjill MacDonald.

That certainly looks like an early version of Frank Klopas’ starting lineup this year. Sean Johnson, currently in Houston with the U.S. national team, is the sure starter in goal.

And nobody needs to wonder about why Arne Friedrich wasn’t in the lineup: the former German international was given permission to report late.

Interesting, then, that newcomers Jeff Larentowicz and Joel Lindpere (pictured) were the preferred starting midfield combo in a 4-4-2. (And that’s not a bad looking center-of-the-park duo, is it?).

Of course, than left no room for Logan Pause – who was stationed at right back.

There was speculation that Pause was headed right there in 2013, so there’s supporting evidence in that direction. Yes, in January, but still …

Chicago Fire say goodbye to retiring Pavel Pardo

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We should have read between the lines of the Larentowicz trade. In fact, we didn’t have to. Chicago had something on their website about it: “Larentowicz Move Brought About By Uncertainty Over Pardo Future.” That may as well have been his retirement announcement.

Instead, Saturday was the day the former Mexican international made it official. After a season-and-a-half in Chicago that capped a career that began with Atlas in 1993, Pardo is calling it a day. From Chicago’s website:

“This was a very difficult decision, but after speaking with my family, I’ve decided that it is the right time to retire from professional soccer,” said Pardo. “I’ve had the opportunity to play for world-class clubs and represent my country at the highest level. The journey has been an exciting one and I’m proud of the things I’ve accomplished along the way. Thank you to all of my teammates, coaches, clubs, family and most importantly my fans for supporting me for the last 19 years. I’m excited about the next phase of my career and look forward to being involved in soccer for many more years to come.”   

Pardo has won league titles in  both Mexico and Germany, appeared at two World Cups, and is the second-most capped player in Mexican national team history.

During his time in Chicago (where he arrived in July of 2011), Pardo made 41 MLS appearances, scoring two goals and adding nine assists. Last season, he teamed with Logan Pause at the base of Frank Klopas’s midfield as he helped guide the Fire to the playoffs.

Team owner Andrew Hauptman offered the following:

“It has been a truly great experience to have had Pavel Pardo represent the Fire on-and-off-the-field,” said Fire owner Andrew Hauptman. “Pavel’s character, leadership and integrity as an individual rival his passion, ability and skill on the field. Our club is honored to have been a part of Pavel’s 19-year professional career. Pavel will forever remain a member of the Fire family.”

Pardo was a great player – one of the best CONCACAF’s seen in the last 20 years. Even at 36 years old, he was a valuable player for a Major League Soccer playoff team. To replace him, the team had to go out and got a borderline all-star.

MLS may not have gotten the same player that at one time steered VfB Stuttgart to the top of the Bundesliga, but for a shot period of time, they got one the region’s iconic players. And now, it’s time for him to move on.

Jeff Larentowicz on his way to Chicago

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We should have known the day before the MLS SuperDraft would be busy on the player movement front. Teams are making their last second moves ahead of tomorrow’s festivities, with one of those movies landing one of the league’s best destroyers in a new home.

Jeff Larentowicz is the type of player every coach wants. He’s an intelligent, reliable veteran who reads the game as well as anybody playing at the base of midfield. He may be limited in what he provides going forward, but even there you can count on him to be sensible. In a league where experience with different styles, surroundings, and game conditions matters, Larentowicz’s experience can ground a team.

For his coaches, the 29-year-old is a set it and forget it player. You know what you’ve got. You just write his name in. He takes care of the rest.

As of Wednesday, Chicago’s Frank Klopas has got that player. According to reports, the Fire sent the 11th pick in Thursday’s SuperDraft and allocation money to Colorado for the four-time U.S. international.

(UPDATE: Colorado is also sending the 30th overall pick to Chicago while the Rapids receive and international slot. If this deal had the future rights to a designated home grown player, it would be the most MLS trade ever.)

The move creates a small logjam at the base of Klopas’s midfield, but given the price for a borderline all-star, you make the deal and ask questions later. At least, if you think Larentowicz is worth the $200,000 cap hit he brings (and these things are always debatable), you pull the trigger.

Will Larentowicz fit in with Pavel Pardo and Logan Pause? We’ll find out, but questions about how that trio will divide playing time shouldn’t derail this kind of deal. Add recently acquired Joel Lindpere to the mix and Klopas is suddenly overloaded with players who can man the middle.

On the other end of this deal, you can’t help but think Colorado’s hitting the reset button. Larentowicz, Conor Casey, and Omar Cummings — all major parts of the team’s 2010 MLS Cup winner — have been moved this offseason. With Edson Buddle, Atiba Harris, and Hendry Thomas (who joined at the end of last season) brought in, the Rapids appear to be shuffling the deck.

On the surface, it looks like change for change’s sake. The new trio cost about $100,000 less in base salary (using 2012 numbers), but would you take them over the three who left? Consider the Rapids weren’t going anywhere with their 2012 squad, this might be the devil you don’t know.

That’s not to say the three veterans should be painted with the same brush. Whereas Casey was expensive and injured and Cummings seemed to have lost his way, Larentowicz was still a valuable contributor. You can shake things up, ditch some of the old parts, but still keep what works, particularly with Pablo Mastroeni coming off an injury-filled campaign.

Maybe Colorado sees Nathan Sturgis as the cover they need. Or perhaps there’s some can’t miss prospect at 11 they don’t want to miss. We should at least acknowledge that as a possibility.

Whatever the reason, Colorado decided to move on. And Chicago is better off for it.