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Chicago’s Austin Berry remains on the rookie rise

Chicago Fire v Sporting Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, KS - JUNE 29: Teal Bunbury #9 of Sporting Kansas City takes a shot past Austin Berry #22 of Chicago Fire during the second half at Livestrong Sporting Park on June 29, 2012 in Kansas City, Kansas. Chicago won 1-0. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

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We’ve been singing the PST praises for Austin Berry for a few weeks now. The Chicago Fire rookie center back is a smooth operator, learning more each week from the smoothest of central operators.

Berry appears to be benefitting wonderfully from Arne Friedrich’s tutelage. The central defensive tandem has been key in Chicago’s summer rise; the Fire sit fourth in the East while pressing the three teams ahead.

Berry’s ascension is no accident. Friedrich told me about three weeks ago that he understands his responsibility to the organization doesn’t begin and end as he walks over the white-painted lines on game day.

He takes the mentoring responsibilities seriously. Along with it, should we start taking Chicago seriously as an MLS Cup contender? While both players rightly point out that defense is a lot more than commanding work from the center backs, it’s also fair to point out that Chicago is 6-1-2 when these two start together on the back line.

Berry was a “let’s also mention” just a few weeks ago when I did my Rookie of the Year at mid-season bit. But his progressive climb has been sure and steady. Just look where he is now on Rookie of the Year rankings. He’s first, and I can’t disagree.

(If Ryan Meara regains his starting spot in goal at Red Bull Arena, I could see a change here. ROY races, as we know, tend to be quite fluid.)

Said Fire manager Frank Klopas:

Arne has leadership, the ability to guide these guys. And then you have a kid [Berry] who has a lot of ability. And he’s learning within every game. He’s getting better and stronger. His commitment to defending is first.”