Forget about all of those ideal notions about Arne Friedrich easing his way into the Chicago starting XI. Those plans just about ended when the news of Cory Gibbs' knee operation hit the wires.
Former U.S. international center back Gibbs underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee on Tuesday. He will miss the next four to six months as he recovers from the injury he suffered during training on April 4, according to a club release.
Gibbs' absence creates a significant hole in the center of the Fire back four. He provided the solid, veteran foundation for the group last season and started all three games to date in 2012. His performances since arriving in Chicago papered over some of the cracks for a side that wrestled with selection issues on the right side of defense for much of the season and showed that he could still contribute effectively at the MLS level on a weekly basis.
Chicago coach Frank Klopas probably hoped to partner Gibbs and Friedrich in central defense when the ex-German international finally made his first team bow. Instead of pairing two seasoned options in defense, Klopas must now ask Friedrich to assume a greater burden when he presumably steps into the starting XI alongside Jalil Anibaba for Sunday's date with Houston.
Although most teams would love to have a player of Friedrich's caliber and experience to call upon in these circumstances, his ability to assume those duties and make a smooth transition to MLS still remain somewhat of a question mark. Saturday's friendly victory over the Univ. of Louisville marked his first competitive action in more than nine months. By his own admission, Friedrich remains far short of match fitness after leaving VfL Wolfsburg in September.
“I may be 70 percent, but it was a good feeling,” Friedrich told the Chicago Tribune after taking the field. “To be 100 percent, I need some games, this is for sure. I don't know each (teammate) 100 percent and just need some time."
Gibbs' injury ensures that Friedrich will enjoy no such luxury in the short term. He will have to step in and contribute immediately without picking up the types of knocks that 32-year-old players lacking match fitness usually sustain. The modest reserve options – rookie Austin Berry and third-year man Kwame Watson-Siriboe – will likely prompt Klopas to dip into the transfer market as soon as possible to reinforce his rearguard.
For a Fire side that expects to compete for a playoff berth, Gibbs' injury represents a significant setback. Friedrich will have to slot in seamlessly to ensure the resolute defensive core remains intact in order to provide the foundation for Chicago's counterattacking approach and prop up those postseason dreams.
Galaxy shows its defensive desperation with Junior Lopes swap
Familiar trading partners Chivas USA and Los Angeles struck yet another deal to send players crisscrossing through the bowels of the Home Depot Center on Tuesday. Galaxy boss Bruce Arena sent young schemer Paolo Cardozo to the Goats in exchange for center back David Júnior Lopes.
The persistent problems in the center of the Galaxy back four played significant role in this swap of reserves. Júnior Lopes, however, probably does not represent a potential solution. He flailed around wildly during his MLS bow last season and slipped well down Robin Fraser's pecking order during the winter.
At this juncture, Arena bought low on Junior Lopes in an attempt to rectify those defensive concerns. The chances, however, of Júnior Lopes exceeding the rather modest standards set by Andrew Boyens and Tommy Meyer appear somewhat remote given the evidence already on hand. If the Galaxy can somehow polish him up and wring a few positive appearances out of him, this trade will more than pay for itself.
Joseph banned for D.C. United visit after tackle on Villar
New England midfielder Shalrie Joseph joined the growing list of players sidelined by the Disciplinary Committee after he received a one-match ban for a tackle he made during the Revolution's 1-0 defeat at FC Dallas last Thursday.
Joseph received a yellow card from referee Juan Guzman for his two-footed lunge on Ricardo Villar during the match, but the Committee hit him with a suspension after reviewing the tape and finding that he committed a “reckless challenge that endangered the safety of his opponent,” according to a league press release.
The tackle checks several of the boxes MLS usually tries to fill in these sorts of matters – the tackle came from behind and Villar suffered a right mid-foot sprain on the play, FCD coach Schellas Hyndman told ESPN Dallas on Tuesday – and sustains the league's oft-stated and erratically enforced initiative to crack down on physical play.
The meager rationale supplied to buttress the decision prompted displays of displeasure from Joseph and his agent, Ron Waxman, on Twitter. Joseph said he was “really disappointed and frustrated” with the decision. Waxman, meanwhile, offered this tempting morsel in defense of his player: “MLS Disciplinary Committee again shows its cluelessness by suspending Shalrie Joseph for a yellow card foul witnessed by referee. #onlyinMLS.”
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