BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- When the Fire began final preparations for Sunday’s match vs. Red Bull last week, it’s a safe bet Hunter Jumper didn’t think he’d be starting on the weekend.
That all changed about 48 hours before the game as the second-year Fire defender found himself thrust into the starting 11 for the first time after Gonzalo Segares suffered a hamstring injury late in training on Friday.
Rightly so, many wondered how the University of Virginia product, who had just 48 minutes of league action prior to the match, would respond against a team with the attack of Red Bull.
The questions were answered as Jumper held well defensively and served up the cross for Daniel Paladini’s equalizing header just before the half in the 3-1 comeback victory.
“I saw Danny in between the center backs and he made a perfect run,” said Jumper. “Obviously I wanted to whip it in a little bit harder but I’ll take it because I think the wind actually held it up a little bit and confused the goalie.”
In the face of not getting regular first team minutes, Fire head coach Frank Klopas was pleased with how the 24-year-old defender responded to the situation.
“For his first start, he was good. It wasn’t an easy task for him and I think he did well. I think the Reserve matches have helped him. He played the week before in Columbus and did well in that game.
“Those guys have to be ready and I think with Hunter it’s just giving him confidence. It’s not easy when you don’t play and then have to come into a difficult match like that in a game that’s a must-win for us at home. I thought he did well and I give him a lot of credit.”
Jumper credited Klopas’ staff and his teammates for the needed support in his first career start.
“It’s great playing with the guys and it’s an incredible locker room, everyone makes you feel comfortable and going on the field, everyone’s there to give you confidence. Frank, Leo, the coaching staff were really supportive, they gave all the confidence in the world.”
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In the team’s first session following Sunday’s win, Segares didn’t train in full Tuesday and was listed as questionable on the AthletiCo Injury Report.
Klopas said Tuesday the team is evaluating Costa Rican international’s health day-by-day with the hope being that he’ll return for Sunday’s game at Houston.
If he’s unable though, Jumper could earn a second start vs. last year's MLS Cup finalists.
“It was good to get this game under my belt but we’ll see how Sega is this week. I always have to be ready to go and I think Sunday boosted by confidence.”