Baggio's Bite

With the early injury absence of central midfielders Logan Pause and John Thorrington, second-year Fire player Baggio Husidic has seen his role expand from substitute help to needed starter over the course of four games. The UIC product has started the club’s last two matches and just went the distance for the first time this season in the Fire’s 2-0 win over DC United on Saturday.

The Bosnian-born midfielder has broadened his game in every match.

“Every game I’ve improved,” said Husidic. “I think I’ve already done better than my performances last year. I feel much more confident on the ball and more comfortable going forward.”

Husidic’s first start of 2010 came in the Fire’s 2-1 home opening loss to San Jose on April 10. A quick glance at the box score would signal a poor performance (Husidic was replaced by Justin Mapp at halftime) though with the teams in a scoreless deadlock, Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos made a tactical decision to spark more offense in front of the home crowd.

“I think Carlos made the technical decision to sub me in order to insert Marco [Pappa] as a central attacking midfielder to provide more offense. We had a few decent chances to score and in that situation at home you go for more production. Marco was in the right place for his goal, but unfortunately we lost.”

With Thorrington and Pause’s prognosis sitting stagnant, de los Cobos employed a 4-5-1 formation for last Saturday’s match at United. The switch saw Mapp make his first start of the season and allowed Pappa to play centrally again. Husidic teamed in the middle with Peter Lowry for the second straight match and the partnership proved fruitful as the pair bossed the United midfield throughout, with the second-year player coming close to scoring his first MLS goal a number of times.

“I personally thought I played well on both sides of the field. It’s nice to finally get over that first hurdle and get a win. After you get your first win, it’s like getting your first goal – they usually come a bit more frequently. We were frustrated with our start but knew we were capable of playing better and getting results. Now that we have it, we’re hoping to get our second against Houston, who’s playing very well right now.”

De los Cobos has been happy with his central midfield corps in the absence of his two long-time veterans.

“Both Baggio and Peter are playing and getting better each game,” said de los Cobo. “Players need to play in order to mature in the position and I feel good with both Baggio and Pete because they support the team in midfield and are working very hard -- playing with two functions -- not only to play in the midfield but to go from one box to the other. They’ve both come close very close to scoring. This is good for us because they are understanding the usefulness of playing both ways.”

Sitting now on four points, tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference and with Saturday’s match against the Houston Dynamo looming, Husidic is looking forward to playing again in front of the home crowd at Toyota Park.

“There is nothing like playing at home. There is nothing I don’t like about the city of Chicago and I wouldn’t mind spending my entire career here. Given the atmosphere and the attendance record the club set, we were disappointed not to get the result here on opening night. Section 8 is always our twelfth man and we know they’ll be out in numbers again on Saturday in what will be a very tough match against Houston.”