Tuesday, May 17, 2011

One on One with Daniel Paladini of the Chicago Fire

Paladini vs Vancouver
When I spoke to Daniel Paladini the first thing I was struck by was what a down to earth person he is. Not only did he agree to the interview, but he was very accommodating with his time.

Daniel Paladini returned to Major League Soccer in 2011 after an interesting few years away from the league. In 2006 the California native was picked up by the L.A. Galaxy in the Supplemental Draft and then moved across the stadium to Chivas USA in the same season. That first year he never found time on the field for the first team. He did however find time in the Reserve League. It was with the Reserve League’s demise though, that Paladini went on a quest for a new place to develop and mature his game.

It was in February 2009 that Daniel found a home in the Carolina Railhawks of the NASL, whom he played for in both 2009 and 2010. It was with the Railhawks that Paladini was able to develop as a player and find his footing as a professional. During his time there, Paladini earned himself Best XI honors in both years. When speaking to him, it is clear that Daniel holds fond memories of Carolina and attributes his new success with the Chicago Fire to that time he spent there. “I’m here where I’m at now, because I played there in Carolina and got the playing time that I needed.”

Much of his success now is credited to the confidence he gained with the Railhawks. “I got the playing time that I needed. I still had to earn it too and it wasn’t a walk in the park. There were points in the years where I was not starting…I still had to earn my spot.”

Having played in the NASL and now starting in MLS, Daniel is in the rare position of being able to compare the two leagues. “There is a difference between the two leagues… [MLS] is a bit faster, there’s not as much time and space as you might think there is.” Looking at MLS he sees the improvements from even a few years ago. “The league is only getting better, you’ve got some of the best players in the world now. There’s going to be more competition and I’m just looking to make an impact and set myself up.”

Best XI Honors in 2009 & 2010 NASL
Obviously making the jump from second tier soccer to first brings its own challenges and Paladini does not take anything for granted. In all likelihood it was the battle for spot in Carolina that lead him to his new role in a Chicago Fire uniform. It was with the NASL team that his game improved and he learned to adapt. That adaptability has come in handy. With the Railhawks, much of the offense went through him in a primarily attacking mid-field role; his new position with the Fire has him in more of a defensive midfield role. “Right now they’ve got me in a system where I’m playing more of a defensive midfielder, but I do have time to create.”

Whether he’s staying after practice or putting extra emphasis on a certain part of his game, there is a hunger to improve. Paladini describes himself as a technical player and this can be confirmed by anyone who watches his game. It is perhaps the reason why he fits best into the Chicago system where he is surrounded by players who share the same mentality, such as Corben Bone (another former Railhawk U23).

Paladini vs Toronto
Paladini’s value in this new position is two-fold. His high work rate allows him to be involved in the play on defense and move the ball through to Chicago’s prolific attackers, such as Marco Pappa. His nose for goal even from a distance is a constant threat to the defending teams.  This box-to-box mentality is something that Paladini seems to embrace as well. Fire fans should count themselves as fortunate.

The Chicago Fire have had a rough start to the year. However, they’ve seemed to improve each game. In regards to Paladini, he picked up his first start away from home against the defending champion Colorado Rapids.  Since then he has started each game, and in that time the Fire is unbeaten, including a healthy comeback from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 in Toronto.

What does the future hold for Daniel Palaini? When asked what his goals for the future were the response came as no surprise: “My personal goal is that I want to do well with this club. [The Fire] have taken me in and given me the opportunity.  Short term goal is I want to make the play-offs, in the long term we’ll see.” For a guy who enjoys playing golf and a good hot dog with ketchup, apparently taboo in Chicago, not a bad gig.

Things are certainly looking up for Daniel Paladini and by default the Chicago Fire. Not only has his game improved but his career is on the rise. You’ve got to applaud the maturity it takes to allow time to develop as he did and then work his way back into a starting role in Major League Soccer. It not only makes the case for proper development, but for motivation to pursue the goals that drives one to achieve. Keep an eye on him folks.


  1. Couldn't agree more. Paladini was the foundation of so many great plays at Carolina. Looking forward to watching him more with the Fire and what he brings to MLS. Good interview, great piece Luke.

  2. Love to hear of the success Daniel is having in Chicago. Watched many of his games in NC, we miss him here. Enjoy him Chicago! He is a great person and a talented player.

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