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.

Matt Nagy calls Kevin White a 'great weapon' with a new future

Matt Nagy calls Kevin White a 'great weapon' with a new future

Former first-round pick Kevin White hasn't caught a break -- or a touchdown -- through the first three years of his career. He has more season-ending injuries than 100-yard games and after an offseason focused on upgrades at wide receiver, White's future in Chicago beyond 2018 is very much in doubt.

Ryan Pace declined the fifth-year option in White's rookie contract, making this a prove-it year for the pass-catcher who once resembled a blend of Larry Fitzgerald and Dez Bryant during his time at West Virginia.

He's getting a fresh start by new coach Matt Nagy.

"He is healthy and he's really doing well," Nagy told Danny Kanell and Steve Torre Friday on SiriusXM's Dog Days Sports. "We're trying to keep him at one position right now so he can focus in on that."

White can't take all the blame for his 21 catches, 193 yards and zero scores through 48 possible games. He's only suited up for five. Whether it's bad luck or bad bone density, White hasn't had a legitimate chance to prove, on the field, that he belongs.

Nagy's looking forward, not backward, when it comes to 2015's seventh pick overall.

"That's gone, that's in the past," Nagy said of White's first three years. "This kid has a new future with us."

White won't be handed a job, however.

"He's gotta work for it, he's gotta put in the time and effort to do it," Nagy said. "But he will do that, he's been doing it. He's a great weapon, he's worked really hard. He has great size, good speed. We just want him to play football and not worry about anything else."

Nagy on Trubisky: 'He wants to be the best'

Nagy on Trubisky: 'He wants to be the best'

The Bears concluded their second round of OTAs on Thursday with the third and final set of voluntary sessions scheduled for May 29-June 1. Coach Matt Nagy is bringing a new and complicated system to Chicago, so the time spent on the practice field with the offense and quarterback Mitch Trubisky has been invaluable.

"We’ve thrown a lot at Mitch in the last 2 ½ months,” Nagy told Dog Days Sports’ Danny Kanell and Steve Torre on Friday. “He’s digested it really well.”

Nagy’s implementing the same system he operated with the Chiefs, an offense that brought the best out of Redskins quarterback Alex Smith. The former first-overall pick went from potential draft bust to MVP candidate under Andy Reid and Nagy’s watch.

Nagy admitted he and his staff may have been a little too aggressive with the amount of information thrust upon Trubisky so far.  It took five years to master the offense in Kansas City, he said, but the first-year head coach sees a lot of similarities between his current and past quarterbacks.

"These guys are just wired differently,” Nagy said when comparing Trubisky to Smith. “With Mitch, the one thing that you notice each and every day is this kid is so hungry. He wants to be the best. And he’s going to do whatever he needs to do. He’s so focused.”

Smith had the best year of his career in 2017 and much of the credit belongs to Nagy, who served as Smith’s position coach in each season of his tenure in Kansas City. He threw for eight touchdowns and only two interceptions during the five regular season games that Nagy took over play-calling duties last year.

Nagy said Trubisky has a similar attention to detail that Smith brought to the Chiefs’ quarterback room.

"Each and every detail that we give him means something. It’s not just something he writes down in a book. He wants to know the why,” Nagy said of Trubisky. “He’s a good person that is in this for the right reason. His teammates absolutely love him. It was the same thing with Alex [Smith] in Kansas City.”

A locker room that believes in its quarterback is a critically important variable for success, one that Nagy already sees exists in Chicago.

"When you have that as a coach and when you have that as being a quarterback, not everybody has that, and when you have that you’re in a good spot.”