The Fire defeated the University of Louisville 1-0 in a friendly match this morning but the biggest story of the day was the game debut of defender Arne Friedrich. The 32 year old World Cup veteran played very well in central defense moving freely, winning balls in the air, and vocally making his presence felt on the pitch.
"It was a good feeling but it was my first game after six months so definitely I need (to work). We won which is most important," said Friedrich after the match. "We have to improve, we know that but I guess it was a good test today," he continued.
When asked about his status for the Fire's next regular season match a week from Sunday against the Houston Dynamo, Friedrich feels that he's close to fitness but still has some work to do. "(Next Sunday) is my target but this is what I said before, to be 100% I need some games to play. I don't know (everybody) 100% yet because everybody moves his own way and it needs some time but I need games for my fitness. Today I'm about 70% but the more I play it will get better," said Friedrich.
"You could see his experience in organizing and communicating", said Frank Klopas. "I think he'll be ready. That was our plan from the beginning so it was good to push him as much as we can in this game. With every day that passes he gets physically stronger and better".
Friedrich and his teammates on the back line were very vocal throughout the match providing each other with instruction and encouragement. "I have a good feeling with them and everybody can learn, as well as me. The most important point is that we know each other and everybody knows what the other thinks in the game. Sometimes we have to talk a little bit more on the pitch but this needs time", said the German defender.
Klopas also stressed the importance of communication on the field not only from the center back position but from all players. "It's important for someone to be vocal like that and communicate. It's important, not only from him but for other players on the field especially with someone in the back with that experience that can kind of guide the group letting them know when to push up and when to withdraw, it's very important".
Sean Johnson, who played in last weeks reserve match against Colorado also started in this match. Klopas is using these games to ease Johnson back into game day form. "We have this and also the reserve match in Kansas City where he can get the minutes that he needs in game situations" said Klopas. The coach was also not concerned with Johnson exhibiting a hang-over from the US-U23 Olympic qualifying loss. "You just have to move on. Whether you're a player or a goalkeeper you're always going to learn from difficult moments and get better. Sean is a young goalkeeper and he's moved on with that", said Klopas.
As for the game.....Marco Pappa scored on a beautifully taken strike from the top of the eighteen in the 12th minute. After Federico Puppo's initial shot was blocked, Pappa stepped in front of Puppo to gather the ball and placed a shot into the upper left hand corner past Louisville 'keeper Zach Torp. The Fire played 21 different players in the match and will next face the Sporting Kansas City reserves on Tuesday in KC.
You can listen to Friedrich's post game comments here.