Fire acquire Atouba Emane in MLS SuperDraft


Fire acquire Atouba Emane in MLS SuperDraft

The Fire fans that turned out at Thursdays Major League Soccer SuperDraft in Indianapolis were the most vocal throughout the 38-round process, but they didnt have anything to cheer about until the No. 30 selection.

Thats when the Fire picked Yazid Atouba Emane, a speedy forward-midfielder from Cameroon. The Fire couldnt draft higher after giving up the No. 11 pick to the Colorado Rapids to acquire midfielder Jeff Larentowicz on Wednesday night.

Larentowicz was the third MLS veteran picked up in the offseason, joining Maicon Santos from D.C. United and Joel Lindpere from the New York Red Bulls. Thats why the SuperDraft wasnt a high priority for the Fire this time around.

Atouba Emane amounted to the 11th pick of the second round, and the Fire has benefitted from lower picks in the past. The clubs ultimate steal was goalkeeper Sean Johnson, the fourth-round choice (51st overall) in 2010. Forward Chris Rolfe was picked 29th as a third-rounder in 2005 and captain Logan Pause, another third-rounder (2003) was the 24th overall pick that year.

A member of Cameroons youth national team, Atouba Emane played in the 2011 FIFA World Cup in Colombia and was most recently with Rainbow FC, a Cameroon club. Said to be an especially strong kicker with his left foot, he also played in his native country for two other sides, Renaissance de Ngoumou and Canon de Yaounde.

Thursdays draft was a much higher priority for other MLS clubs, notably the New England Revolution. They thought so much of University of Louisville forward Andrew Farrell that they traded a fourth-round to Toronto FC on Wednesday just to assure they could get Farrell.

Farrell is a former college teammate of Austin Berry, the center back who earned MLS Rookie-of-the-Year honors for the Fire this season. Berry was the Fires first-round choice in 2012.

While Farrell was clearly the most coveted player Chivas USA was happy to land Connecticuts playmaker Carlos Alvarez with the second overall pick. Chivas announced that it will take only Mexican-American players from now on in an effort to copy the popular Mexican club of the same name.

Two Notre Dame players went in the first round forward Ryan Finley, ninth overall to Columbus, and midfielder Dillon Powers, 11th overall to Colorado. The Rapids used the draft spot acquired in the trade of Larentowicz to get Powers.

Fire players will gather for two days of medical exams starting on Friday and depart for the first phase of preseason training at Ave Maria University in Florida on Sunday. The club could also pick up more players in the MLS supplemental draft on Jan. 22 in New York.

The revamped National Womens Soccer League will conduct its draft in Indianapolis on Friday, and the Chicago Red Stars figure to be more of a factor than the Fire was on the MLS side. The Red Stars have the first overall pick in the four-round selection process.

NWSL teams, however, learned more about their rosters prior to the draft when the latest premier circuit for women allocated national team players from the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The Red Stars did well, landing midfielders Shannon Boxx and Keelin Winters and defender Amy LePeilbet off the U.S. squad; goalkeeper Erin McLeod and defender Carmelina Moscato from Canada; and forward Maribel Dominguez and midfielder Dinora Garza from Mexico.

BITS AND PIECES: Peter Wilt, the Fires first president and general manager, is getting another new team started. He will be named president of the new Indianapolis franchise that will begin play in the North American Soccer League in 2014.

X Midfielder Collin Fernandez, from Downers Grove and the Fire Academy, is one of five new additions to the U.S. under-17 mens national team roster to select players for Aprils CONCACAF Championship in Panama. Fernandez will train with the U.S. team in Bradenton, FL., in the spring.

X The Chicago Soul, a first-year team in the Major Indoor Soccer League, has named Jeff Kraft as assistant coach and director of soccer operations. The Soul (6-9) visits the Milwaukee Wave on Saturday and hosts the Wichita Wings at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates on Monday.

X Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson is training with the U.S. mens national team in preparation for a Jan. 29 match vs. Canada in Houston. First home match for the U.S. men in World Cup qualifying has been set for Dicks Sporting Goods Park, home turf for MLS FC Dallas, on March 22. Costa Rica will be the opponent.

Kyle Hendricks takes in a Blackhawks game with... Bastian Schweinsteiger?

NBC Sports Chicago

Kyle Hendricks takes in a Blackhawks game with... Bastian Schweinsteiger?

A Cubs pitcher taking in a Blackhawks game in a suite is nothing special, but doing so with a World Cup winner is... different.

Kyle Hendricks was spotted by the cameras of Thursday's Blackhawks-Coyotes broadcast on NBC Sports Chicago. The guy he was standing next to was none other than Chicago Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, a World Cup with Germany and Champions League winner with Bayern Munich.

Hendricks is known for being reserved on the mound and in his interviews with the media. Meanwhile, Schweinsteiger was filmed yelling "Bear Down" in the hallway of Toyota Park after a Fire practice earlier in the day.

There's no telling what inspired Schweinsteiger to do this, but he has definitely embraced Chicago sports teams since joining the Fire in March of 2017.

Makes you wonder what Hendricks and Schweinsteiger were talking about. Best places to get brats in Chicago?

Niklas Hjalmarsson gets standing ovation from United Center crowd in Chicago return

Niklas Hjalmarsson gets standing ovation from United Center crowd in Chicago return

Niklas Hjalmarsson played for the Blackhawks for 10 years and won three Stanley Cups with the team so his return to the United Center was a big deal.

The defenseman, now with the Arizona Coyotes, made his return to Chicago in Thursday's game. The Blackhawks had a tribute video for him during the game and the crowd gave him a standing ovation after the video.

He was teary-eyed after getting the warm reception.

Hjalmarsson was traded by the Blackhawks to the Coyotes for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin after the 2016-17 season. He played against the Blackhawks on Oct. 21 and again on Feb. 12 last season, but both games were in Arizona.

Injuries limited Hjalmarsson to 48 games last season and he missed Arizona's only trip to the United Center last season, which came in December.

Watch the video above to see Hjalmarsson's tribute and reaction.