Aston Villa: Pre-season tour of USA - Preview Part Two: Chicago Fire
Aston Villa take on MLS giants Chicago Fire tonight in the Windy City. But how much do you know about your opponents?
Fortunately our man Stateside Anthony Bedworth has compiled a little guide especially for you Villains.
Frank Klopas (Head Coach)
Klopas immigrated to the United States at the age of eight having previously been born in Prosimna Greece and eventually went on to play international football for his adopted nation. Despite playing soccer for Chicago Storm (indoor) his career was to steer him back to his homeland were he successfully won four league titles, and one each of the League and Super Cups with Greek Giants AEK Athens.
In 1994 he moved across the Athens city to play for Apollon Athens were his stay was less silver plated, chalking up only ten appearances in a two year spell. As the inaugural MLS season began in 1996 Frank Klopas was signed by Kansas City wizards, then by Chicago Fire were his trophy cabinet increased in numbers. As he helped secure the double, winning both the MLS Cup and US Open Cup.
In 2000 once the retirement speech was spouted and the boots were hung, then Chicago boss Bob Bradley handed him the role of strength and conditioning coach but his duties were short lived as he resigned at the end of the campaign due to personal reasons.
However his love affair with the Fire continued as many expected, firstly taking up a technical directors role. But three years later into such an instrumental position Klopas was called upon to take over from Carlos De Los Cobos whose sudden declined in results geared the Chicago Fire hierarchy into immediate action. Since May 30th 2011 the Greek Born American hasn’t looked back, and has stayed in the job ever since.
Mr Klopas likes to set his teams out to attack and put the opposition under pressure from minute one. He uses the supportive vocals to his advantage putting onto the field his most influential team who are likely to entertain and complementing them is a solid backline which oozes desire and passion throughout.
Five Players To Watch
Sean Johnson is seen as one of the league's most improved goalkeepers producing master class saves week in week out to spurn danger away and engineer three points onto the board. And still at the tender age of 23 Johnson has many years to improve into a world class goalkeeper. The 6ft 4 stopper grew up in Lilburn Georgia, but his soccer career began at the University of Central Florida where he was coveted with the title of Most Valuable Player 2008.
His standout displays triggered his move to Chicago Fire in 2010 via the MLS superdraft. During his first rookie season the giant keeper won back to back saves of the week, cementing his place as the number one keeper for the once crowned MLS cup champions.
Johnson offers a solid presence in behind the back four, his constant talking and communicating assures them of positional stances and combatting opposition threats. His agility is very sound indeed, this enables him to reach high and low to produce match winning saves and over the course of the 2012 MLS season Johnson has been highlighted as one of the most impressive players for his high calibre shot stopping.
The German stalwart was signed by Chicago Fire in March 2012, Klopas insisted his experience and versatility was the key factor in signing the defender. Friedrich can adjust too many positions including full back and occasionally central midfield, yet his preferred and most natural position is at the heart of the defence.
Arne has been a main stay figure for the German national team over the years tying down 82 caps next to his name. Captaining the side four times and played in major competitions such as World Cups (2006, 2010) Euro Championships (2004, 2008) and the Confederation Cup (2005). Despite not being named in the first eleven on a number of occasions during tournaments his participation has come through an injury or suspension to squad members. But his great reading of the game and ability to break up opponents attacks stabilises his position for the rest of the campaigns.
Since moving to the ‘Windy City’ Friedrich has been restricted to game time due to constant niggles causing havoc as well as the odd suspension. Yet whenever he is on the field of play his experience and presence is ‘priceless’.
Marco Pappa has the ability to change games on his own, with an array of passing strokes in his locker the Guatemalan can do master up anything to bamboozle anyone who dares to get in his way. Having started at his local side back home Municipal at the tender age of 16, his magical sprinkle propelled Chicago Fire to take Pappa on an initial 18 month loan deal during the middle of the 2008 season.
After playing a pivotal role in the 2009 MLS campaign Chicago Fire took up the option to gain full rights to Marco Pappa transforming his ‘Windy City’ stay into a more stable whirlwind. Pappa is a maestro in possession his imagination to picture actions prior to them happening gives him the extra edge to refurbish defence into attacks in the blink of an eye. Most recently in a game away to Sporting Kansas City, Pappa and his Fire team-mates sustained a solid base to restrict the home side from any real clear cut chances. As the game was set in stone to be tied, the Guatemalan did what he does best, pouncing onto a loose ball Pappa jinxed his way to the edge of SKC box. After playing a neat one two with Chris Rolfe, he turned one point into three slamming the ball past the helpless Jimmy Nielsen.
Being this way inclined has made English Premier League side Wigan Athletic to stand up and take notice, despite no formal contractual system being offered he hasn’t hidden away from his desire to eventually move on to the European scene.
Born in Accra, Ghana, Dominic Oduro is labelled by many fans across the MLS as the quickest player in the league at present. His small but muscular frame allows him to glide past and in behind defenders in an instant. Oduro likes to formulate his pace to good use by constantly positioning himself on the shoulder of the backline, combined with his pace and clinical goal-scoring qualities, defenders are left confused and unable to take action.
The Ghanaian has played for a number of teams in the MLS prior to clinching a move to Toyota Park. FC Dallas, New York Red Bulls and Houston Dynamo have all benefited immensely from having a fearful outlet in their attacks. As a Dynamo player in 2009 Oduro tried to conjure up a move overseas to test himself against the best soccer players in the world.
Despite involving heart and soul into potential moves Oduro failed to secure one in particular and was required to re-sign for Houston. Ghana ace Oduro scored his first MLS goal in Chicago colours in a 2-1 loss to eventual champions LA Galaxy. With Klopas giving him more freedom he has repaid the boss with his impressive goal scoring performances and ability to become a team orientated player.
Mexican born and bred Pavel Pardo is the most experienced player in the Chicago Fire roster. Currently occupying a defensive midfield role Pardo is a ‘keep it simple’ type of player who can break up opposing attacks and give it to the players who can cause most damage. As well as this the Mexican can be seen striking a mean dead ball as Vancouver Whitecaps found out, he struck a free kick eight minutes into the game to seal all three points.
Having spent the majority of his club career in his native country, Pardo did eventually move to Europe in 2006 with Stuttgart securing his services. In his first season at the Bundesliga side he played a pivotal role in securing the German championship title and being rewarded a respectable fifth place in a voting poll seeking the best German based player in 2006. But he was desperate to rekindle his home based love affair and in 2009 he returned to the club he left Club America.
Pavel Pardo is also widely known on the international stage playing senior football for Mexico since 1996, notching up an incredible 148 caps in that time.
Dan Gargan Jalil Anibaba Arne Friedrich Gonzalo Segares
Pavel Pardo Logan Pause(C)
Patrick Nyarko Marco Pappa Chris Rolfe
Aston Villa play Chicago Fire on July 21 at Toyota Park at 7.30pm CDT.