BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- When the Chicago Fire announced the signing of Uruguayan international Arévalo Rios last month, they knew they’d be getting a world class central midfielder to plug into the team.
With MLS playing through FIFA international dates, they also knew Rios would likely miss at least three games to close the season as Uruguay battles for a place in next summer’s FIFA World Cup.
The first of those comes this week as Uruguay visits Peru in a pivotal CONMEBOL qualifier Friday while the Fire visit Seattle the following day (9pm CT on NBCSN).
So, out of all the central options at his disposal, who does Fire head coach Frank Klopas replace Rios with on Saturday?
“I’m not going to tell you which person is going in,” Klopas told Chicago-Fire.com Wednesday. “We have everyone healthy now and so we have some very good depth in that spot.”
With the team just outside of the Eastern Conference playoff bubble, Klopas’ cageyness should be expected.
He’s also right, between Alex, Logan Pause and Daniel Paladini, the Fire do possess a number of central options to lineup next to regular starter Jeff Larentowicz, so confirmation wouldn’t be prudent.
Prior to Rios’ arrival, Larentowicz’s most consistent partner in the middle of the park had been Alex, who has lined up there nine times since winning the starting role in the injury absence of Pause earlier this summer.
The Fire captain lined up next to Larentowicz eight times in the first half of the season but since his return from a lower back injury, has mostly been an unused sub but did put in a strong performance in the team’s 2-1 win over Montreal on August 10.
Meanwhile Paladini has made his name at the Fire by putting in strong performances whenever called upon but his absence from the 18 in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Houston might preclude him from being the choice starter Saturday.
Pause provides Klopas a steady, defensive option and a wealth of experience going into the atmospheric confines of Seattle’s Century Link Field while Alex, who has played on the right wing the past two matches, would obviously give him a more offensive look.
Whoever it is, Klopas feels confident they’ll get the job done as the team looks for its first-ever victory over Seattle Saturday night.
“I feel whoever we put out there is going to be ready and leave everything on the field to continue to get positive results for the team.”