Hidden behind the retirements of Chicago Fire defender C.J. Brown and forward Brian McBride, defensive midfielder Logan Pause quietly had a noteworthy individual 2010 season.
On Thursday, former Fire and current U.S. National Team head coach Bob Bradley called up Pause to the squad for a friendly against South Africa. And earlier in the week the Fire dished out their team awards, with Pause earning the most valuable player honor.
"Obviously I'm humbled by the award, and that's very nice for all those who participated in the voting process," Pause said. "But it's a tough one for me to truly enjoy. When your team doesn't make the playoffs, I consider how the team's body of work is a direct reflection of me. And I feel personally that I'm still in a spot where I can get better. I'm healthy and I continue to learn every day. Those things have been bright. But that's a tough award to accept when you don't make the playoffs."
With the leadership of Brown and McBride no longer with the Fire, this team will be searching for someone to take on the captain role. And whether head coach Carlos de los Cobos decides to give Pause a game-time armband next year, Pause is Chicago's de facto captain simply for being a part of the Fire system for eight seasons now.
"I'm not the coach, but Logan does have those kinds of qualities, for sure," technical director Frank Klopas said. "I think that a lot of times he's a guy that doesn't stand out. When you evaluate every game and the hard work this guy does, the running, the balls he wins, the sacrifices, he knows his role. He's not the flashiest guy, but he's a great leader on the field."
"I don't need a title or a label, but I feel like as I've played more and more years for the Fire, that also comes with bigger responsibilities," Pause said. "That is becoming a leader, setting a good example and representing the team as I've developed over my career. I'm not going to do anything different than what I have been doing. It's not up to one point person to be the captain. But in terms of looking on paper and C.J. and Brian retiring -- two veteran players -- I do have the responsibility to help this team."
The Fire have had some time to reflect on this past season, all the while continuing to train over the course of the MLS playoffs. Pause firmly believes that the lack of attention to detail was a factor in Chicago's shortcomings this year.
"It's not just a light switch you can flip on," Pause said. "That's one of the big things as a group that we need to change and improve. Everything from improving individually and as a group, we need to pay attention to detail, and those are things that need to be worked on in training."
And Pause thought Brown, who was honored earlier this week for his 13-year career, exemplified this missing component from the 2010 Fire.
"He was one of the most consistent players I've ever played with," Pause said. "I go back to attention to detail -- he's one of the guys that got it. He represented the club as well as anyone and represented how to play the game the right way -- the integrity, the work ethic, constantly learning to the last day that he was in the locker room, and he made his teammates better."
However the results arrive, the Fire know they have to make a quick turnaround following one of their worst seasons in team history.
"We're in a profession of results," Pause said. "For us as players, at times we'll grind out a win or play excellent in a loss. It doesn't have anything to do with our style of play. In the games we have looked good, I don't think we did anything out of the ordinary. We just have to play better."