Fire want first picks to step right up

his demeanor on and off the field -- will be a fun experience for me," Stewart said, while also pointing out that he is excited for the chance to test his defending abilities against some of the league's top marksmen. "I'll have every training session against Damani Ralph. All of the big-name forwards like [Real Salt Lake's] Clint Mathis -- that will show me where I am as a defender. I'll take every game as it comes and try to make sure they don't one-up me."

But the transition from college soccer to professional soccer is often a difficult one. The international experience that both Barrett and Stewart have gained with the youth national teams will aid in their adjustment to the more physical aspects of the pro game and the increased speed of play.

"I think it's going to be kind of the same," said Barrett. "The best thing I got out of college was the physical attributes. It's so physically demanding. I think [MLS] will be similar to the national team."

Added Stewart: "The whole thing of it is the speed of play. Training with these pro teams has also helped me out. I'm just very excited to take that next step and see how much of a difference it is and where I am."

With preseason camp starting in early February, the opportunity for both players to gauge their skills and potentially earn a starting spot come opening day is just around the corner.

Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


To report a comment, mouseover or touch the comment and then click/touch the flag icon (Flag).