The Fire went for a position of need in the annual MLS Superdraft and selected the best right back available with the 13th pick overall. UC-Irvine defender Marco Franco, who played his first three years in school at right back before moving to the middle in his senior year describes himself as an "attack minded right back who likes to get forward."
Franco told reporters via conference call this afternoon that his initial meeting with Frank Yallop and Fire brass went well in Florida and he was looking forward to playing in Chicago. "I met with them (coaches) on Monday...and I thought it went well," said Franco. "We talked a little bit about my play at the Combine and they said I did well. I loved what they had to say about me and what they had to say about Chicago and the organization".
Yallop needed to add depth at both fullback spots and alluded to a back-up plan for Lovel Palmer on the right side if Steven Kinney failed to get past injury issues. It appears Franco is that back-up plan for now but he feels he can contribute more than just depth. "I think the goal is definitely to earn a spot on the team and get some playing time. I definitely think I can come in and challenge for a starting spot. I just want to come in and work hard and show the coaches what I have and help the team," said Franco.
"I wanted to make sure we got the best available at that spot and I thought Marco had a good four seasons at Irvine and had a good combine," said Yallop of this year's first selection. "He's got the body type (for MLS) and as a 22 year old he's had four years of college and done well. We had a good chat with him and he was one of the guys that we interviewed before the draft. I thought his demeanor was strong. He was a happy, go lucky kid but he was driven. That's what we want. A guy that doesn't want to sit still. He's an attacking right fullback".
Fire brass interviewed Franco on Monday and left the meeting with a good first impression that led to his selection today. "The things he talked about being a pro were that he wants to learn and he wants to get better," explained Yallop. "He didn't mention Europe. We've had interviews with some of these kids and it's all about wanting to go to Europe. This kid's all about wanting to get better and make sure (he's) got his game improved and go to a place that will improve (him) as a player".
On the pitch, Yallop echoed what many believe to be Franco's strong points as a player. "He's an attacking right fullback who loves to get forward. He's really clean on the ball. He's got good clean feet and hits a good long ball. He loves to get forward and has the pace and power and ability to defend well. He's got all the attributes but the big thing you never know is can he get the mental part of the game. Can he handle pressure? Can he step up to the professional level. I see a lot of good college kids who are absolutely fantastic in college but as soon as they get into the pro game they don't quite get it. It's mind boggling really," said Yallp offering some insight into what coaches and technical directors look for during potential player interviews.
"When we watched him play in the combine and I saw him play at Irvine he never seemed phased. He had a strong character and he didn't seem nervous. That's always good so when you step onto the pro side you're not phased or not as nervous as you would be if you're character wasn't right. I'm hoping I'm right with this but I think we've got a pretty good one and hopefully it works out for us and the Fire".
Franco will compete for a spot and Yallop will continue to look at different players going into training camp although there aren't many openings to fill. "I'd love to have a player at every position to jump in whenever we needed but Lovel Palmer can play right back or left back. Steven Kinney is coming into camp and we have Hunter Jumper who's played left back and center back. I would say left back area is a little bit a position of need but I think there's enough people in our squad (to cover). We'll be bringing in some guys in preseason to have a look," he said.
"We only have a couple of smaller spots to fill and come March 9 we'll be ready to get going fully loaded".
The third and fourth rounds are more of a guessing game since there are players available who haven't been as heralded as the players chosen in the first two rounds. The Fire did not have a second round selection but will hold picks 61, 65, and 75 in next Tuesday's third and fourth round draft continuation.