BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- With Bakary Soumare suspended for Friday’s crucial Eastern Conference clash vs. Sporting KC, the question around Toyota Park this week was who will slot in central defender for the Malian international.
Conventional wisdom might have pointed to Jalil Anibaba moving inside to pair with Austin Berry, bringing captain Logan Pause in to deputize at right back but pointing to a desire for continuity on the backline Fire head coach Frank Klopas indicated otherwise this week.
With that, second-year defender and converted center back Hunter Jumper seems the likely candidate to plug in for Soumare vs. Sporting. Over the past few months, Jumper, a natural left back, converted to the middle and says the move has suited him well so far.
“Frank talked to me and said he thought I had a lot of potential to be a good center back just because of my left foot and size and everything. The past month, I feel like its been the best I played in my professional career.”
Jumper has run out several times at center back for the Fire Reserves this year and went 90 minutes in the team’s 3-2 friendly loss to Club America last month, with the Plano, Texas product saying the additional reps he’s received recently has helped his progression.
“It gives you a new appreciation for the position and the little nuances you need to have. You’re an orchestrator out there,” he joked.
After receiving five substitute appearances in his rookie season, Jumper has made just one in 2013, playing 90 minutes at left back in the team’s 3-1 win over New York on April 7.
In that match, the University of Virginia product stepped in for Gonzalo Segares and served up the first assist in the come-from-behind win.
With playoff implications on the line, Jumper said he realizes the magnitude of the game but is overall just excited for the opportunity to play coming off a positive week in training.
“If I'm playing, I’m excited regardless because it’s against a good team again. You always want to play the best and I think the good thing about our team is that we always have strong character.
“It’s times like this we’ve really come together and this week everyone came out in practice with a different attitude.”