The Fire landed University of North Carolina defender Jalil Anibaba with the ninth pick in today's MLS SuperDraft. Anibaba, the MVP of the MLS Combine, was ranked by many as a top five pick and the Fire were understandably surprised to find him available at number nine. According to Technical Director Frank Klopas, Anibaba can play both central defense and right back equally well. "He's a player that can switch the point of attack and be accurate with his passes out of the back. He also communicates very well" said Klopas. The Fire expect Anibaba to compete for a starting spot right away.
"I'm honored and excited to get started as a pro. To do it in a place like Chicago, there's nothing better" said Anibaba during a post draft conference call. The Fire's first round pick also stated that he's very familiar with MLS and the style of play within the league and believes he will fit in well. Although he did not have much direct contact with the technical staff during the combine Anibaba felt "at home and accepted" after meeting with Klopas and Carlos De Los Cobos. "I'm honored to think that people feel I'm someone that can step in right away", said Anibaba when asked about pre-draft evaluations.
The Fire also selected University of Maryland forward and Elmhurst native Jason Herrick with the 45th pick in the third round. Klopas described Herrick as "a kid that's more of a number nine". "We needed a guy who is going to be around the box".
The Fire traded the 49th pick in the third round to Toronto FC for a player to be named later. Toronto FC selected Ecuadorian playmaker Joao Plata with the pick and eventually sent goalkeeper Jon Conway to Fire as the player to be named. "He's a good goalkeeper and an experienced goalkeeper. He's a guy that helped a young keeper come along (in Toronto)" said Klopas of the Fire's new acquisition. MLS may require teams to employ three goalkeepers on their rosters due to the expanded roster sizes and reserve league play.
With their final pick, 51st overall, the Fire selected another forward - Davis Paul from the University of California. According to Klopas, Paul is more of a second striker. "Very quick and good in tight spaces."
When asked about rumors circulating regarding Nery Castillo and flirtations with a team in Greece Klopas responded, "My emphasis right now is on the draft. You're always going to hear rumors with different players. We expect him to be with us at the start of camp".
The Fire are not done. Klopas is still looking to add some depth at the central midfield spot and they are in the process of trying to add another player at that position and possibly another forward that was targeted during one of the various scouting trips this winter.