Drew Conner doesn’t know what his role will be with the Chicago Fire, but he is confident he can fill a number of different ones.
Conner, a Cary native, was a four-year starter at Wisconsin, but moved around the midfield in his time with the Badgers. His primary and preferred role was as a defensive midfielder, but said he also played out wide and as an attacking midfielder during his sophomore season.
“I’ve played pretty much everywhere in the midfield for Wisconsin,” Conner said. “I think I could also play maybe in the wide back positions as well. I think that’s one of my upsides as a player, just my versatility and the fact that I can play both ways.”
That versatility could help him earn playing time with the Fire sooner, especially considering his preferred defensive midfield role is occupied by Rookie of the Year finalist Matt Polster. That’s just fine with Conner.
“Obviously when you take a step up to the next level you’re never going to play your normal position,” Conner said. “A lot of times you’re going to have to adjust so I’m ready for wherever they see me best.”
Conner said he has played soccer since he could kick a ball and his father, Tom Conner, has had a big influence on his game. Tom Conner played at Eastern Illinois under former FC Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman and was a part of the Panthers’ 1981 Final Four squad.
“This has kind of been both of our dreams,” Drew Conner said. “He’s been there by my side the whole way. It was a special moment when I got the call. Madison is only two hours away from where I live so he drove up from Cary and we went out for dinner and it was great.”
His dad wasn’t the only one to share the big moment with him. When the call came from technical director Brian Bliss, general manager Nelson Rodriguez and coach Veljko Paunovic, Drew Conner was watching TV in his Madison apartment with friends.
“The call came and I had to shush everyone,” Drew Conner said. “There were like eight other guys in the room so it was a fun moment. It was a bit overwhelming just to talk to all those guys, hear the news and hear all of them talk.”
Drew Conner noted, like fellow new homegrown signing Joey Calistri, that both Paunovic and Rodriguez were both high energy and optimistic of a turnaround at the club. However, Bliss was a pleasant familiar voice to hear.
“It was cool getting the call from Bliss, too, because he was my PDL coach this summer,” Drew Conner said. “He’s been awesome with me and I learned a lot playing from him this summer.”
Bliss wasn’t the only Fire coach that Drew Conner credited with his development. He raved about playing under recently departed Academy director Larry Sunderland.
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“Larry Sunderland did an outstanding job developing me as a player,” Drew Conner said. “I can’t stress enough how much Larry did for me as a player. I don’t think if I wouldn’t have come into the Academy at 14 and had Larry for four years that I would be in this place.”
Drew Conner is staying fit until the preseason starts, but first he has to worry about finals. After signing his contract on Thursday he had one more final and one paper still to complete. He said he will be about 16 credits short of graduating with a degree in life sciences communications after leaving after this semester.
“I’m just excited to elevate my game by surrounding my game with professional players,” he said.