Jeff Larentowicz, Hunter Jumper in the running to replace suspended Soumare Saturday vs. Montreal

Klopas says he'll try both Larentowicz and Jumper at center back ahead of Montreal clash

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- For the second time in a month, Fire head coach Frank Klopas will be looking for a deputy center back to start in place of Bakary Soumare after the Malian international was sent off in the 29th minute of the team’s 3-0 loss at Columbus on Saturday.

Klopas and his staff surprised some with how they adjusted their team in that match, deciding to push central midfielder Jeff Larentowicz into the back line rather than make a defensive sub.

“We knew Jeff could play that,” Klopas explained Tuesday. “We had the [right] players on the field -- instead of bringing another defender in, we moved things around where we could push the game and get a goal back.”

That nearly happened just before halftime as Juan Luis Anangono’s header glanced off the cross bar but as the game wore on and the Fire pushed for a goal, the short-handed visitors were caught out twice more in the 3-0 defeat.

So with Soumare suspended for the second time this season, the main question at Tuesday’s training session was who would take his place in Saturday’s crucial clash at Montreal.

In this instance a month ago, it was second-year defender Hunter Jumper, who filled in admirably and scored the game-winner in the team’s 1-0 victory over Sporting KC. With Larentowicz showing well at Columbus though, Klopas admitted he hasn’t made up his mind.

“I’ll try both [players] in training this week,” he admitted. “I think we have a few more days to see some things out here. Jeff showed that he can step in – he’s played there before, he’s comfortable, so we just have to see what makes the most sense.”

Larentowicz featured mainly as a center back through his college years at Brown University and deputized there as needed through his first few seasons with the New England Revolution.

Asked how he felt about the shift to the back line on Saturday, Larentowicz said, “I felt fine. I played there for a long time and I know once the first couple minutes went by it was like I never really left. It felt okay and at this point I’ll do whatever the team needs and if that’s what it is, that’s what it is.”

With the Fire dropping back below the Eastern Conference playoff race’s “red line” last weekend, the Fire vice captain put the impetus on the team’s second to last home match Saturday vs. Montreal being a must-win game

“These games are so important, we have to win and we have to figure out a way to get points on the road. Luckily this weekend is a home game and we can put ourselves back into a feeling of being right back into it. We have to move on and get three points at home.”