Positional Breakdown: Midfielders

Crandall profiles the Fire's midfielders heading into the 2012 season

In yesterday’s positional breakdown, I looked at the return of all four starters along the backline as well as the team’s process at building depth in defense. Today I talk midfielders…

Signed (9): Corben Bone, Sebastian Grazzini, Daniel Paladini, Marco Pappa, Pavel Pardo, Logan Pause, Victor Pineda, Rafael Robayo, Michael Videira, Tweeners (1): Patrick Nyarko
Draftees (1): Tony Walls
Trialists (2): Alex, Ivan Guerrero
 
Like the starting backline, the Fire have returned all four main starters in midfield from 2011 in Sebastian Grazzini, Pavel Pardo, Logan Pause and Marco Pappa. With the offseason acquisition of Colombian Rafael Robayo and the return of most of the corps that ended the season, midfield looks to be the area on the field with the most depth and the one that provides the most options for head coach Frank Klopas.
 
Attacking – There is little doubt that Grazzini’s midseason acquisition last season helped turnaround the team’s fortunes as the Argentine brought another dimension to the Fire attack. With Klopas deploying an attacking midfield, Grazzini is the guy but both Corben Bone and trialist Alex have provided good moments there in the later parts of the first two preseason matches.
Having played there in the past, Guatemalan international Marco Pappa and Daniel Paladini also give Klopas options at the top of the diamond.

Outside – The formation the Fire closed 2011 with wasn’t one that necessarily had out-and-out wingers in it, instead it often looked like three midfielders cutting across the field behind Grazzini. That setup saw Pappa push forward a bit more on the left while Pause moved in closer to his more natural spot in the center of midfield.
 
With Pappa held out of Sunday’s draw vs. D.C. and Pause absent from Wednesday’s game vs. Florida Gulf Coast, Klopas pushed Patrick Nyarko, who played almost exclusively as a forward at the end of 2011, to the right side of midfield. Looking to make his MLS debut in 2012, Home Grown player Victor Pineda has seen extended time on the right through the first two matches, putting in an excellent 60 minutes in Wednesday’s game, while Michael Videira and Supplemental Draftee Tony Walls could be another option there.

On the left, both Nyarko and Pause can switch sides if needed, while Corben Bone has played there before. The big story is that of trialist Ivan Guerrero, who has seen time mainly as a left back but Fire fans should be familiar with his capabilities of midfield as well.

The wild card in all of this is Colombian Rafael Robayo who has yet to arrive in Fire camp as he awaits his visa. Capable of playing on both sides, Robayo’s arrival into the team will likely mean someone very good will be coming off the bench during 2012.

Holding/Center – Like Grazzini, Pavel Pardo’s midseason arrival last year helped a Fire resurgence that pushed the side to within three points of the MLS Cup playoffs. The former Mexican international’s ability to dictate the tempo of the match will be invaluable to the Fire in 2012. 

Pause, Videira and Paladini all provide options behind Pardo in the middle, with the latter putting in an excellent performance there on Wednesday, breaking up movement and attacks throughout his time on the field in the 3-0 victory over Florida Gulf Coast.