By ANTHONY ZILIS
For years, Pavel Pardo planned on ending his career in MLS.
Finally, after a long courtship with the Chicago Fire front office, the former Mexican international signed with the team early this week. He practiced the Fire for the first time on Thursday.
"In my career, I have always had plans. I was in Europe, and I said, 'OK, I'll stay in Germany four or five years then come to MLS and play my last years,'" Pardo said. "Of course you never know what happens in life. I went back to Mexico City and played for America. I said, 'OK, it's time to go to play in MLS.'"
Pardo most recently played for Club America after three years at Stuttgart, winning the Bundesliga in 2007. He made it clear that it was his decision alone to leave the Mexico City club, and he was not forced out by manager Carlos Reinoso.
"I decide everything in my career," Pardo said. "Some people think it's because Reinoso do this, or do this, but that is a lie."
The 35-year-old midfielder also said he footed part of the bill to come to Chicago, where his grandparents already live. His contract runs through the end of this season, but he said his stay will likely last one or two years after that.
"When I went to Germany, I paid for going to Germany. I paid to America to play and do my dream. So now I have to try in America until December," he said.
Now, Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas will have to figure out how to work Pardo into the lineup. He plays the same defensive midfielder position as team captain Logan Pause.
"(Pause and Pardo) are different players. They can play together, they can play in different spots. It was good that they have different qualities to move in if he needs to," Klopas said.
"He's an experienced guy. I think he's going to come around pretty quick. He's one of the guys who knows when to run, to be in a certain spot and that's what experience does I guess. You run less, you think more and you're always in the right spot."
Pardo's signing, along with that of Sebastian Grazzini just weeks before, creates a glut in the Fire midfield with Marco Pappa, Dominic Oduro, and Patrick Nyarko also vying for spots.
Pardo and Pause played alongside each other in a 10-on-10 scrimmage Thursday. Although Pause has played defense during his career, Klopas suggested that Pardo's fitness is not at a level where he can be the lone holding midfielder.
Klopas didn't give a clue what his starting lineup would be, though he listed off formation options, including a 4-3-2-1 and a 4-4-2 with a diamond in the middle. As usual, he said the lineup would be under week-to-week consideration.
Pardo said he isn't yet fit enough to start, though that could change in the coming weeks.
"I'm not ready," he said. "I'm an honest guy. I think maybe next week or in two weeks. It depends how I practice, how I feel, my body. The most important I've always said is the head. If the head Is 100 percent, you can do good things."
KLOPAS: TRADE OFFERS FLEXIBILITY
The Fire traded defender Dasan Robinson to Toronto FC for defender Dan Gargan and Toronto's 2012 second-round draft pick.
"We have a lot of cover in that position," Klopas said. "I didn't see where Dasan was going to get minutes to play, and we were able to make that trade and bring a player in who can play a couple of different spots and give us some flexibility. We also got a draft pick which is very important. Those are hard to come by."
Klopas said he's pleased with the progress of Argentine playmaker Grazzini, who signed with the Fire two weeks ago.
"You can just see his movement is a lot better and more fluent and stuff," Klopas said. "I like what I saw from him (Thursday), because he's been doing double sessions with our fitness guy. He's getting better and better. It's good to see his progress."
ODURO SET FOR FORWARD ROLE
With two new midfield signings, it appears that Oduro will play forward for much of the rest of the season. Though much of his success this season came playing on the wing, Oduro wouldn't mind the move.
"I'm always ready and prepared to go, like I say, up front or on the wing, I think I'm 100 percent either way," Oduro said. "Shoot, I'll even play defense if he wants me too, if he wants me to shut somebody down with speed or whatever."