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Francisco Calvo adds to Chicago Fire’s defense, prefers to play centrally

In two starts with the Fire, he has played centerback next to Bastian Schweinsteiger.

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — Francisco Calvo had an abrupt exit from Minnesota United, but so far he has been a positive addition to the Chicago Fire’s defense.

Calvo captained Minnesota in the April 19 match at Toronto FC. As the clock ticked past 90 minutes and into added time, the Loons trailed 4-3 and just had Jan Gregus sent off.

Calvo took out his frustration with a late challenge on TFC midfielder Auro. Calvo received his second yellow card and joined Gregus in the locker room early.

That would be his last action as a Minnesota defender.

Calvo served his suspension for the following match against the LA Galaxy. He was eligible to return against D.C. United April 28, but was not even on the bench.

The Costa Rican defender went from captaining the Loons to not even making a matchday roster in a span of nine days. Five days after that, he was traded to Chicago.

Calvo vented some of his frustration publicly on his way out. When the Fire beat the Loons 2-0 on Saturday, Calvo had some form of revenge against his former team, but this time he didn’t take any verbal jabs at Minnesota.

He downplayed the significance of playing against his former team, shrugging it off and focusing on the win. However, he did give one particularly open and honest answer regarding his position.

Calvo primarily played left back with Minnesota, including in the Toronto match when he got sent off. In two starts with the Fire, he has played centerback next to Bastian Schweinsteiger.

“I feel much more comfortable in the middle,” Calvo said. “I feel stronger over there. I can play left back, but I don’t really like it. If I have to do it, I do it, but I don’t like it. I feel better in the middle.”

While Calvo has his way for now, it’s unclear whether that will remain the case. Marcelo started the first eight matches at centerback before going down with a hip injury that has kept him out of the last four.

When Marcelo rejoins, coach Veljko Paunović could opt for a back three with Calvo and Schweinsteiger. On paper, Calvo’s ability to play left back seems useful to the Fire given the team’s lack of options at the spot.

Paunović has frequently talked about the importance of players being flexible. Paunović applauded Johan Kappelhof’s efforts at right back Saturday. Kappelhof has been a rock for the Fire since joining the team in 2016. He has played right back in a pinch, but has primarily been the team’s top centerback since his arrival.

Minutes before Calvo said he didn’t like playing left back, Paunović complimented Kappelhof for shifting to right back.

“That’s something I’m very happy about because the guys want to help the team when we ask them, ‘Hey, we need you to play in this position, this game or that game,'” Paunović said of Kappelhof. “They’re open to learn it and they’re open to do it. They do their best. All that helps the team. That’s what we have to understand. When somebody is not open to learn and to upgrade his game, it’s just not helping the team and obviously not helping himself. In this locker room we have fantastic guys, who are open, selfless.”

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