Croatian trialist joins Fire midfield puzzle

[MLS] Not surprisingly, the departure of Mexican catalyst Cuauhtemoc Blanco after two and a half seasons in Chicago has left the Fire midfield disjointed.

Midfield mainstays John Thorrington and Logan Pause are battling injuries and may not be available for the Fire’s home opener Saturday against San Jose, which is one reason Coach Carlos de los Cobos is giving a one-week trial to former Croatia national team midfielder Filip Tapalovic, a native of Gelsenkirchen, Germany, whose career includes stints in the Bundesliga with Schalke, Bochum and 1860 Munich.

He scored four goals in 138 Bundesliga appearances from 1996 to 2005 after helping Bochum gain promotion to the top division during the 1995-96 season. Tapalovic, 33, last played for Croatian club NK Rijeka, and has not played competitive soccer since December, 2008.

Tapalovic is primarily a defensive midfielder, though he lacks the range and busyness of Pause, and doesn’t possess Thorrington’s penchant to slash from box to box. He played three times for Croatia.

A quadriceps injury will likely sideline Thorrington Saturday. Pause is hobbled by an undisclosed leg injury though he played all 90 minutes last Saturday in a 2-2 tie at Colorado.

In their stead, de los Cobos could turn to Peter Lowry, a third-year pro out of Santa Clara University who has started the first two games, and Baggio Husidic, a second-year pro out of UIC and a sub in both matches.

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