It wasn’t exactly a night to remember for the Chicago Fire as heavy rain and lightening brought Sunday night’s match against Houston to an early finish at 1-1, but it was certainly an experience and a debut German defender Arne Friedrich won’t soon forget.
“It was a crazy game. It was the first time for me and it was unusual… and it was sad because we still had 25 minutes to go and it’s just a draw so we’re not happy,” Friedrich said.
Friedrich started alongside Jalil Anibaba and the German international hardly looked like he hadn’t played a match since last summer (barring the friendly vs. Louisville last week). Friedrich was composed on the ball, vocal, and looked extremely comfortable against Will Bruin and Brian Ching. Friedrich’s passing range and technical skills were also on display throughout the shortened match and the 32-year-old looks like he will be a huge factor for the Fire this season – as you would expect from a player of his caliber.
Friedrich was pleased with his debut but understandably frustrated at not being able to complete the entire 90 minutes and record a win in his first Major League Soccer match.
“I have never seen this before. I don’t know if this happened before in America, but both teams had to deal with it. I guess for both teams it was not easy, but for me it would better if we could played the last 25 minutes but we cannot do anything.”
Friedrich was also adamant that the Fire could have picked up all three points if the match had been allowed to continue.
“This [a win] is what we planned. For me it was hard because I missed the last 25 minutes and one point is not good enough at home. So it’s sad but we can’t do anything and we need to focus on the next game.”
After closely watching Arne for 65 minutes on Sunday, the thing that impressed me the most about him was his composure on the ball and his positioning. As a vastly experienced defender, it’s evident Friedrich knows exactly where to be at all times. He did well to conduct the defensive line and ensure every defender was in line with each other in order to contain Ching and Bruin. The only mishap occurred in the 24th minute when Anibaba and Gargan failed to step up and prevent Bruin from remaining onside. Unfortunately for the Fire, this led to Houston’s only goal of the game.
“I guess there was some small mistakes in a row and we need to keep it in the locker room. There was some small faults but we need to adjust as a team. It’s a new team and we need to know each other but we had a good response.”
Indeed they did. After Pause tied the match at 1-1 in a very unorthodox way, Friedrich and co. did well defensively in torrid conditions to keep the score level. On a night with such terrible weather, defenders can often be forgiven for losing their footing and making mistakes but the defense performed well and avoided the same type of mistakes that spoiled their trip to Colorado two weeks ago.
With Cory Gibbs most likely sidelined for the season, Friedrich’s debut comes at the perfect time for Chicago and the team looks capable of mounting a strong playoff charge this year with Friedrich anchoring the defense. Look for him and Anibaba to form a strong partnership this season and for the former North Carolina defender to really thrive playing alongside Arne.
For your convenience, below is the MLS’ chalkboard displaying Friedrich’s distribution on Sunday and his interview following the match.
(Apologies for the sideways video!)