Fire newcomer Friedrich set to fill in for injured Gibbs

Team looks to German international to anchor defense

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Bad news came to town for the Chicago Fire this week, as it was announced that center back Cory Gibbs will be out four to six months after having surgery on his torn meniscus.

But there’s no panic yet, and shouldn’t be much of a dropoff – if any – because former German international center back Arne Friedrich was already set to make his first start of the season on Sunday against Houston.

Friedrich will presumably slot in alongside second-year man Jalil Anibaba, who has started the first three games of the season and was set to concede his starting spot to the World Cup veteran.

“He’s very vocal, and that definitely works with my style of play because I like to speak a lot on the field as well,” Anibaba said. “There’s constant chatter on the field. I think that’s good.”

Friedrich has only been with the team for three weeks, but he feels like he’s built rapport with his teammates.

But communication, he said, still needs work.

“The most important part is that we know each other,” Friedrich said after Saturday’s exhibition. “We need to talk a little more on the pitch, but that takes time. I guess it will be good, I have a good feel for the season.”

If the learning curve is anything like 2011 – the Chicago defense became rock solid as soon as Anibaba and Gibbs became the starting central defensive duo – it bodes well for 2012.

“Cory’s irreplaceable, but Arne’s definitely fit to do the job,” Anibaba said. “My heart breaks for Cory. There’s no way to replace a guy like that, as far as leadership on and off the field. He means so much to the team.”

But Friedrich appears to be fitting right in. The 32-year-old was one of the most vocal players on the field in Saturday’s exhibition game against the University of Louisville.

While the Fire lost one of their leaders this week, Friedrich should fit in seamlessly to the Fire’s backline.

“It’s great that we have someone like Arne, with experience who can also step in and communicate and help the guys around him,” head coach Frank Klopas said. “It’s unfortunate, because Cory’s very important to the team. You try to have depth in the team when opportunities arise, you never want it to come to situations like this.”