Thursday, January 13, 2011

Fire garner defender Anibaba in MLS Draft

The Chicago Fire selected North Carolina defender Jalil Anibaba with the ninth overall pick at the 2011 MLS SuperDraft on Thursday at the Baltimore Convention Center.

Chicago also chose forward and Elmhurst native Jason Herrick (Maryland, 45th overall) and forward Davis Paul (California, 51st overall) in the third round. The Fire traded their 49th overall pick to Toronto FC in exchange for goalkeeper Jon Conway.

Anibaba joins a vastly changed Fire defense, so the opportunity is there for the 22-year-old native of Davis, Calif., to step up into an immediate role on the back line. During the offseason, Chicago acquired Cory Gibbs in the re-entry draft and signed Josip Mikulic earlier in the week as the Fire try to overcome the losses of C.J. Brown to retirement and Wilman Conde who signed with Atlas.

"Ultimately, that's the coach's decision," Anibaba said of whether he would get the opportunity to start right away. "I'm going in with an open mind and will contribute in any way possible. I hope I can fit in well. That's the hope for all players. I'm just excited to get started, and if I have the opportunity to step in, it will be an honor."

"He can play center back, right back ... he's a good athlete, a good technical player," Fire technical director Frank Klopas said. "He's got a lot of upside. I think he can have an impact right away. We expect him to be able to compete for a starting spot."

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