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2011 Recap - The Midfielders | Chicago Fire
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DSC_0758-1Welcome to my third installment in the four part series recapping the Fire's 2011 campaign. This post will focus on the midfield, an area that was bolstered by two huge summer signings, and an area that really helped propel the Fire on to a solid finish of their 2011 season. Early on in the season there seemed to be a lack of creative ability in the midfield, there wasn't a whole lot going on in terms of good passes and assists in setting up scoring opportunities for our forwards. The arrival of Sebastian Grazzini and Pavel Pardo seemed to help turn that trend around, but they are only two of the players this post will be focusing on. Others include, Marco Pappa, Logan Pause, Daniel Paladini, and Baggio Husidic. 

 Logan Pause (C) - Logan is the captain of this club, and showed why throughout most of the season. Logan continues to be a fan favorite, and he really looked a lot more comfortable after the arrival of Grazzini and Pardo. Pause is really more of a defensive minded midfielder, which is something that should not be overlooked. We've got guys in the middle to help create, and there needs to be a guy in the middle who can also move back and defend when called on. Logan is that player. I love what he brings to the club, his leadership, experience, and ability are all part of the bigger picture that is needed by a captain. Logan's play is pure class and I think he is an integral part of this Fire midfield.DSC_0980-2

Marco Pappa - Pappa might be one of the most talked about Fire players on both the positive and negative side. His problem, at times, is that he knows how talented he is. For the first part of the season he was really the only guy who was able to create and score, and he knew that. Until Oduro picked up his form and Grazzini and Pardo arrived it seemed like the only way the Fire would score was through Pappa. At times this became a problem because I think he put too much pressure on himself and really tried to do too much. There were times where he may have skipped on an open pass to try to create on his own and dribble through two or three guys, it was maddening. The simple fact however, is that this club is better with Pappa on the pitch. He needs to slow down and trust his teammates, something he got much better at down the stretch. Of course there's always going to be transfer rumors swirling around Pappa, but I truly hope he does return for the full 2012 campaign.

Sebastian Grazzini - One of the heroes of this year's summer transfer window. Grazzini came in with a reputation of being a magician in creating opportunities for his teammates. He didn't disappoint. Seba helped create chances early and often, and his presence was sorely missed when he went down with a leg injury (most notably during the Open Cup final in Seattle). He's always a scoring threat when he gets the ball at his feet, but he's most dangerous when he's creating through balls for Dom or Patrick and he's equally deadly working the ball through the defense with his passes. Of course, when talking about Seba you can't not mention the fact that he is probably the club's best dancer as well, just ask Brendan Hannan. 

Pavel Pardo - As we move toward the end of Pardo's 5 month contract the rumors are out there that the front office is trying to extend him through the 2012 season. A move that would be welcomed by most Fire supporters, I think. Pardo was the other half of the big signings that the Fire made during the summer, and he - as well as Seba - had a huge impact on this club. He scored a goal in his first appearance for the club and didn't let up from there. He became one of the best options for creating, and was credited with several assists down the stretch. He also proved to be a horse, playing the full 90 several times, and playing very well in those outings. I was not a fan of this signing to begin with. I thought he was too old, unfit, and I was cynical in my view of the signing. I thought the Fire front office was just trying to create some buzz and fill the seats, but I was completely wrong. Pardo was an integral part of the midfield this season and he definitely needs to be back for 2012. 

DSC_0500-3Baggio Husidic - Definitely my favorite Fire member on Twitter. Several interactions with him early on in the season gave Baggio a special place in my Fire favorite players list. He's a good player. Definitely young enough to have a big upside. He saw his minutes cut in half this year, thanks in large part to the arrivals during the summer window. Baggio is a good player, someone that I worry might be snatched up by Montreal in the expansion draft, although I sincerely hope that doesn't happen. Probably the biggest highlight of 2011 for Baggio was his horrendous miss against Manchester United in July, but I forgive him. I love the way he plays, he just motors up and down the pitch, and with some more polishing might be a solid substitute player in this league.

Daniel Paladini - Has a spot right near the top of my favorites, along with Dan Gargan. Their styles are a lot alike. They both seem to play angry. Scrappy player that really knows how to help win balls and fight through traffic with the ball. His passing lacks at times, and his inability to find the back of the net this year was definitely noticed, but still a decent player. My biggest memory of Paladini this year was his absolute stiff arm of a defender who was trying to win a ball from him during the Philly game at home (I believe that was the match). As I've said before, there's a huge drop-off from Seba and Pavel to Baggio and Daniel, and to be competitive in this league you need to have more depth, but I like Paladini as a 15-20 minute guy, a late match sub when the club has a lead and are looking for some more defensive minded guys in the midfield who will scrap and win balls - helping to shut down opposing attacks. 

Corben Bone - This is a guy I'd like to see more of. I really think he could turn out to be a special player, but I haven't seen nearly enough of him to be able to say that with any real reasoning. I hope that he'll get more opportunities in some spots next year to see what we've really got in Corben.