When Gonzalo Segares left Chicago this January to join Cypriot club Apollon FC, the Fire were left with a gaping hole at left back. Unsatisfied with the possibility of starting the since released Daniel Woolard or natural midfielder Mike Banner in Segares’ place, the Fire front office decided they needed another option at left back.
Enter defender Krzysztof Krol, who the Fire acquired on loan from Polish club Jagiellonia Bialystok shortly after Segares signed with Apollon. Originally, Krol was expected to come in and take the reins at left back. Thus far in 2010, that has not been the case. Head coach Carlos de los Cobos has started three different left backs – Banner, Krol and Deris Umanzor – in the first three games of the season.
Apart from keeping that trio on pins and needles every week, the revolving door at left back has not made things any easier on the rest of the Fire’s defense. The instability has forced regular starters C.J. Brown, Wilman Conde, Tim Ward and goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra to adapt to a new set of tendencies and skills every week.
“It’s always difficult when you have a different lineup every game,” said Brown after last Saturday’s loss to San Jose. “But at the end of the day, everybody has their job to do and you’ve got to do it. We train together all day. We had preseason. It’s really not a matter of who’s on or who’s off. You’ve got your opportunity, take advantage of it.”
This weekend the Fire take on the league’s bottom club, D.C. United. With no other viable options at left back, one of Krol, Banner or Umanzor figures to get his second start of the year. The leading candidate is likely Krol who, after starting in week two against Colorado, came on as a second-half replacement for Umanzor last week.
“Umanzor played with no confidence [against San Jose],” de los Cobos said after training on Tuesday. “For this reason I put in Krzysztof. But I think it’s important to try and find the best lineup. I am looking. I am trying to find it.”
Clearly, it’s important that de los Cobos find his best lineup – and his full-time left back – soon. The Fire have gotten off to a disappointing 0-2-1 start and – though it’s still very early – starting to collect results can only help.