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Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Paladini, Fire adapt to formation change

By Charlie Corr

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- When Chicago Fire captain and defensive midfielder Logan Pause injured his hamstring on Wednesday of last week, it caused head coach Carlos de los Cobos to rethink his strategy heading into their game against the defending MLS champion Colorado Rapids.

Initially, the Fire were training to play a standard 4-4-2. But when Pause was out of the picture, De los Cobos adjusted with a 4-1-4-1.

Chicago posted a 1-1 draw on the road, and the formation switch could stay in place, especially if Pause and midfielder Mike Videira (concussion) are unable to go this Saturday when Chicago hosts the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps at Toyota Park.

Last week's match in Commerce City, Colo., opened the door for Fire midfielders Daniel Paladini and Corben Bone, who made their first starts and appearances this season. Uruguayan forward Gaston Puerari dropped back in the midfield as well, leaving fellow countryman Diego Chaves as the team's lone attacker.

"We came out and played our system, and went attacking with four, five guys," Paladini said. "We're losing maybe a forward, but gaining an extra guy in the middle. We didn't go to Colorado to back up and play defense."

That was a big problem the previous week on April 23, when the Fire dropped back and settled for a 1-1 draw against the Houston Dynamo at Toyota Park.

While there are still plenty of wrinkles in the system, Chicago did demonstrate at times a more aggressive game, especially compared to the Houston match. Much of that has to do with the attacking demeanor of the Fire's midfielders against the Rapids. Paladini, who is used to being on the attacking side, played last week's match as a holding midfielder.

"I've talked to my dad and he doesn't like me there. I've played an attacking role all my life," Paladini said. "But I like it. I feel like I can control the game there and spray the ball out wide."

Paladini and Bone had not seen the pitch in regular-season play heading into the game, but Paladini said there was a comfort factor as they were thrown into the mix.

"We're similar players, but we didn't get to play too much together because we were in a different system," Paladini said. "In the reserve games, we've been playing together and connecting. So to us, it was no surprise in the game what we were going to do. Throwing Gaston in there, who has a great first-touch, we know what each other wants."

If Pause and Videira are not ready this weekend, the Fire in all likelihood would tout a similar lineup against Vancouver.

"With Logan and Mike Videira, they are more of defensive midfielders, and we were going with a different style," Paladini said. "Our outside midfielders were being the creators [beforehand]. Now with me and Corben, we grew up as attacking midfielders and have always been more on the creative side. There are just certain balls that Corben and I play than what Mike or Logan would play, and that's nothing against them. Obviously Logan's been very successful in this league."

Last week's game represented the Fire debut of the 26-year-old Paladini, who is in the midst of his second MLS stint. He spent some minimal time with Chivas USA in 2008 before he decided to join the lower-tier Carolina RailHawks in 2009 and 2010 to get some needed playing time.

"It was hard to practice and be a backup to Jesse Marsch and Paulo Nagamura -- these guys are good," Paladini said of his time with Chivas. "So I had to wait, and I didn't want to do that again. I talked to my dad and agent, and came to the conclusion that I should go to Carolina. You hear of some players who get blacklisted from MLS. I had a chance in Carolina to play 30 games [a season], but I knew I had to play really well in those 30 games. It couldn't be a two-goal, two-assist year. Thankfully my name got out there."