After trading down in each of the past two drafts, the roles were reversed for the Fire and general manager Nelson Rodriguez.
The Fire traded up to the No. 5 spot, sending $75,000 of General Allocation Money, $100,000 of Targeted Allocation Money, the Fire’s natural first round pick at No. 15 and goalkeeper Matt Lampson to Minnesota. With that pick the Fire took Jon Bakero, an attacking player who won the MAC Hermann Trophy, college’s soccer version of the Heisman Trophy, this fall.
Bakero comes in with a heck of a resume and a background. The Wake Forest forward scored 37 goals and had 26 assists in four years. As a senior he had 16 goals and 14 assists in 23 games.
"Jon Bakero was, for us, the player who fit both some needs that we had in our proposed style of play best in the draft," Rodriguez said after the draft. "Our character assessment of him came back with a very, very high score. We also thought that his personality, competitiveness, his desire and drive to improve would fit well in our environment. When he was still there at five, we saw an opening to try to take advantage of that. We know that there were some teams between five and 15 that had targeted Jon as well and we felt we needed to be bold in making that move.
On top of his college accomplishments, Bakero is the son of Jose Mari Bakero, who played for Barcelona for a decade and played in the 1990 and 1994 World Cups. The Spanish-born player will count as an international on the Fire’s roster, but offseason moves have cleared out international slots.
Bakero is noted for his technical ability on the ball and his ability to create chances for himself and his teammates. He played as a striker in college, but in coach Veljko Paunovic’s system he could be used as the attacker underneath Nemanja Nikolic, a role that Michael de Leeuw played in 2017 before getting hurt. With de Leeuw and Djordje Mihailovic expected to miss at least a few months of the 2018 season, Bakero should have a chance to start right away based on the current roster.
“I think Jon has some versatility to his game," Rodriguez said. "We feel he can play beneath Nemanja, alongside Nemanja, instead of Nemanja. He doesn’t have the pace to play as an out and out winger, but he’s a very mobile player. So even if he starts centrally he can get out wide, get isolated against defenders. He has a very, very high soccer IQ and a very good ability to play one-touch.
Bakero was named MVP of the combine leading into the draft. Last year the Fire took Daniel Johnson in the first round after Johnson caught some eyes by standing out at the combine.
Not longer after dealing for Bakero, the Fire traded up to the No. 10 spot. Real Salt Lake gave the Fire the pick in exchange for $85,000 of GAM. The Fire then took Syracuse midfielder Mo Adams.
Adams is a Generation Adidas player, meaning he left college early (after two years) and won't count against the salary cap as a rookie. Adams is from England and plays a defensive midfield role. He could play as a backup to Bastian Schweinsteiger and Dax McCarty as a rookie.
"With Mo Adams we had inquired about acquiring Real Salt Lake’s selection, 10th overall, a few days ago when we were in Florida," Rodriguez said. "At that moment in time we came back to them, increased our offer and were pleased to be able to select Mo as well.”
In the second round, the Fire added Clemson attacking midfielder Diego Campos with the 38th pick. Campos had 10 goals and nine assists this fall as a senior. Campos was born in Costa Rica.
First off, I️ wanna thank God because none of this could be possible without him. Thanks @ChicagoFire for the opportunity and for believing in me, can’t wait to get started!! 🔥🔥🇨🇷 pic.twitter.com/LncsdmRc1V— Diego Campos (@diegocam99) January 19, 2018