The Chicago Fire returned to MLS action and were held to a draw by Real Salt Lake. Coach Veljko Paunovic had to tinker his line-up either because of injury or international duty. Johan Kappelhof was out with an injury and Francisco Calvo was with Costa Rica for the Gold Cup.
But despite the result and the makeshift starting eleven, some good came from this game. The biggest eye-opener, was the man tasked with replacing Kappelhof: Brandt Bronico.
When the line-up was first announced, everyone was trying to figure out how the team would line up. To the surprise of many, Bronico was starting as a right-back. When Bronico has played, he’s been utilized as a midfielder. Against the New England Revolution, he came in and scored a beautiful curler.
Since then, he’s found playing time scarce. Because of the injury to Kappelhof, and a lack of options, Bronico was utilized as a right-back and all things considered, did a solid job. He combined well with Fabian Herbers and provided a bit more in the attack that Kappelhof and Diego Campos. Admittedly, Real Salt Lake did not create much going forward but Bronico also did well on defense.
He did not look out of place playing in a new position. He played well and Paunovic definitely took notice.
“BB is, first of all, great player, potential, still potential, and fantastic kid. Very intelligent and after the game in St. Louis, as we have issues in that position, we offered him the possibility to learn that position and to earn a spot”, Paunovic said post game.
He embraced it from the first moment. We worked with him. It went pretty smooth and easy in training, video sessions, and meetings we had. Dissecting and giving the expectations we have for that position, kid learned it like this [snaps fingers].”
Paunovic was impressed that in roughly ten days Bronico was able to pick up what they wanted him to do as the right-back and they felt he linked up well with Katai as well.
In Bronico, the Fire may have found a right-back that they can play moving forward until that need is addressed once the transfer window opens again. Kappelhof suffered his injury in early June and his return is still questionable.
It may wind up being Bronico’s spot to lose if he performs like he did against Real Salt Lake. It’s quite similar to the Jeremiah Gutjahr situation where he was thrusted in as the left-back until certain players came back from injury. The difference here is that Kappelhof is arguably a better central defender and the Fire have no natural right-back on their roster.
Diego Campos, the other makeshift fullback, was recently loaned out and judging by the manager’s words, he might be sticking at that position for a while.
Despite the disappointing result against Real Salt Lake, some good may have come out of it in the form of Brandt Bronico. For a team struggling to get victories, this small victory is one that they will happily take.