Maybe the biggest surprise in the Fire lineup that took the field to start the season on March 19 in Dallas wasn’t Bratislav Ristic over Patrick Nyarko, but rather offseason signing Michael Videira partnering in the middle of the field with captain Logan Pause.
Many assumed third-year midfielder Baggio Husidic was the likely incumbent partner in the middle with Pause after the team saw both Peter Lowry and John Thorrington selected in last November’s MLS Expansion Draft. Really though, Videira joins Husidic and other incoming central midfielders Marko Maric and Daniel Paladini in providing valuable depth in the middle of the park this season.
A self-described box-to-box midfielder, Videira was strong defensively in his Fire debut in the 1-1 draw at Dallas, but showed a bit of his offensive acumen last Saturday, when he beat Sporting defender Roger Espinoza before slipping a ball through to an on rushing Gaston Puerari. The Uruguayan ran on to the pass and hit a low, first-time shot beyond KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen to put the home side up 2-0 on 40 minutes and while it was Puerari’s first goal for the club, it was also Videira’s first MLS assist.
“A couple seconds before Marco played it to me, he beat another guy and getting the ball I was trying to make one of the defenders commit to me,” Videira said Wednesday. “Both Gaston and Diego [Chaves] had been making great runs all day and it opened up pretty quickly. Gaston knew exactly where he was going to go – he made it really easy for me just to slip him through. The run was the hardest part I think.”
Videira is young but he’s not exactly a spring chicken. The Duke University product spent all of 2009 and part of 2010 with the New England Revolution, appearing in 12 matches in a central midfield role.
After not playing during the first half of the 2010 MLS season, New England released the Milford, MA native and he elected to sign with USSF Division 2 side AC St. Louis, appearing in eight matches for the remainder of the 2010 season.
Having going the way of many clubs over the course of lower league soccer in the United States, Videira joined the Fire on trial beginning on January 28 and impressed enough to earn a contract earlier this month, when he officially signed on March 10 while the team was in Charleston.
“It feels great to be back in the league,” he said. “Going down to the second division last year, I just needed to get some games and AC St. Louis helped me with that, getting back on the field and playing a full 90. It helps put things in perspective for you as well. It’s great to get a second opportunity in MLS.”
Having just appeared in his 200th regular season game, midfielder Logan Pause often speaks of the influence guys like Chris Armas, Jesse Marsch and Diego Gutierrez had in helping make him the player he is today.
Thought it may be early to draw those comparisons with Videira, the partnership, which was seen a number of times in preseason, has looked good in the club’s first two matches of 2011.
“I think we’re both very honest defensively and we also have a very good work ethic. We really look to cover each other well defensively, if one of us goes forward the other one will always be honest and stay back. Communication wise I think we just kind of understand our roles – we keep each other in check, making sure everything goes smoothly.”
A lot has been made of the 2011 Fire team having an obvious chemistry and better all-around attitude. With only 13 players of the 28-man roster returning from 2010, creating an atmosphere where players are fighting for each other was a priority for Carlos de los Cobos and his staff over the offseason.
For Videira, who’s been in the locker rooms of Hamilton Academical in Scotland as well as in New England and St. Louis, it’s a big improvement.
“It’s better than it was with the last two teams I’ve been with. The guys have come together really well, everyone’s been pretty welcoming. There are so many new guys in the team that we’re trying to bond a bit more. I think in New England there were a lot of good players but there it was a lot more individualized. In St. Louis there was a good camaraderie but there was no real focus, here is the best of both worlds in a way and I’m really enjoying being around the team.”
US Open Cup
As the team switches focus quickly from the league to a mid-week U.S. Open Cup qualifying clash with defending MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids, the young veteran is already well aware of the tournament’s significance to the club’s supporters.
With head coach Carlos de los Cobos signaling his intention last week to start a strong squad, Videira and the rest of the Fire first team are looking forward to the Wednesday night clash in Peoria, IL.
“Recognizing that the Open Cup is an important tournament to our club so we’re definitely not going to take it lightly, that’s for sure. We see an opportunity for us to do well here and to prove to our supporters we’re a team that works hard no matter the competition. We want to win as many games as we can – every match is just as important as the one that came before it.”
Jeff Crandall is the Team Writer for the Chicago Fire. Follow him on Twitter @JefeCrandall.
Tickets for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Qualifying match vs. the defending MLS Cup Champion Colorado Rapids in Peoria start at $15 and are on sale through BradleyBraves.com