Fabian Herbers, Mauricio Pineda playing valuable roles for Fire

While neither is a star, Herbers and Pineda provide value because coach Frank Klopas can trust them in numerous spots in the formation.

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Fabian Herbers has carved out an important role with the Fire.

Courtesy of the Fire

The Fire are in the middle of playing eight games this month. Their depth will be tested, and they’ll need players to be pliable and capable of performing well at multiple spots.

Fabian Herbers and Mauricio Pineda are two versatile players the Fire can lean on.

While neither is a star, both provide value because coach Frank Klopas can trust them in numerous roles in the formation. Herbers, who was drafted by Philadelphia in 2016 as a striker, has played all over, whether it’s on the wing, the middle of the attack or even deeper in the midfield. Pineda can play as a deep-lying midfielder or a central defender and has had strong moments in both positions.

“I think overall I have a good understanding for the game and know what each position requires and try to do it to the best of my abilities and try to help the team, obviously, put everything out on the pitch,” said Herbers, who joined the Fire in 2019 and was turned into a utilityman by then-coach Veljko Paunovic.

Signed as a homegrown player before the 2020 season, Pineda spent his rookie year as a central defender, starting all 23 games of the shortened pandemic schedule. He then made 51 starts over the next two seasons and has been an important reserve for most of 2023.

Playing multiple positions, Pineda said, has helped his development as he’s matured from a youngster to a veteran member of the Fire.

“Being able to play both positions and even different positions in the midfield helps me grow as a player and gives me different opportunities to be able to play on the field,” Pineda said. “So it helps a lot to be able to play two different positions and learn from the different positions, and also just getting a different perspective.

“Obviously, if you’re playing as a center back, you kind of start to know what you want from your midfielders, and as a midfielder, you start to get to know what you want from your center backs.”

That isn’t to say it’s easy to play multiple roles.

Wingers must stretch defenses but find a way to be responsible defensively. Deep-lying midfielders are asked to be links between the back line and the attack and must cover plenty of ground. The first responsibility of the center back is to protect the goal, plus having an ability to move the ball out to teammates to kick-start the offense.

Doing one of those well is challenging; doing two or more can be extremely difficult.

“It requires you to zone in mentally, obviously, to be prepared, visualize what the position you are going to play in requires,” Herbers said. “Just be ready for that, if you are on the wing, you know you have to sprint a little bit more, and when you are [a deeper midfielder], you have a more steady pace but you have to make more runs up and down, from box to box. Kind of preparing for that, visualizing and being mentally ready for it.”

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