COMMENTARY: Pardo was class on and off the field for Fire
It was the day before the Manchester United friendly at Soldier Field in 2011 and though the next day’s occasion was going to be big, all most wanted to talk about was the rumor of Mexican legend Pavel Pardo joining the Fire.
Without a deal in place, head coach Frank Klopas brushed off the questions that swirled after the team’s training session. A few days later on the player’s 35th birthday, the club confirmed that the second most capped player in Mexican national team history would call Toyota Park his new home.
Pardo joined Sebastian Grazzini as one of two high-profile midseason signings that year and his impact was felt immediately as he scored the equalizing goal in his club debut, a 1-1 draw against Philadelphia on August 3.
With just two wins from their first 20 games as of late August, Pardo played a huge role in sparking the team’s incredible late season turnaround, helping the Fire to a 7-2-1 finish in their last 10 games and leaving the side just three points from playoff qualification.
Just a year ago, the veteran of 148 caps for Mexico confirmed his return to the team. Taking on even more of a leadership role, many Fire players have spoken about how having Pardo on the team was like having another coach on the field as he would so often direct traffic and control the flow of the game.
During his only full season in Chicago, Pardo formed a consistent partnership with Logan Pause in the heart of the midfield and worked in tandem with the longtime Fire veteran in pushing the team back to its first playoff appearance since 2009.
Unfortunately, fans didn’t get the opportunity for much of a Pardo farewell tour as the midfielder experienced calf tightness following a 2-1 victory at Toronto FC on September 12.
That injury kept him out much longer than expected with the hard-working center-mid only returning in the team’s final regular season match, a 1-1 draw vs. D.C. United on October 27.
Pardo ended up taking what would be his final bow in some disappointment four days later when the team was eliminated with a 2-1 defeat to Houston at the first hurdle of the MLS Cup playoffs.
Still, Pardo’s signing gave Fire fans another opportunity to see an iconic world star, along with the likes of Hristo Stoitchkov, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Brian McBride, Freddie Ljungberg and Arne Friedrich.
And just as important, the renowned World Cup veteran never shyed away from an autograph or photo, recognizing his on-the-field abilities were just as big as those of bringing attention to his club.
While his stay may have been brief, the wisdom imparted on his younger Fire teammates over the past year and a half may be his greatest legacy with the Fire.
That and the class he always played with when wearing the badge.