The Chicago Fire and Real Salt Lake today executed a trade that sent veteran defender/midfielder Evan Whitfield and Botswana international Dipsy Selolwane to RSL in return for the Utah-based expansion club's third round selection in 2005 and a second round pick in 2006. The upcoming MLS SuperDraft will take place as part of the 57th Annual National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Convention in Baltimore, MD on Friday, Jan. 14. Today's trade leaves the Fire with two of its four available Senior International roster spaces in 2005 filled, with Costa Rican forward Andy Herron and Jamaican international Damani Ralph occupying the spots.
"This is a difficult, but necessary trade to make. Dipsy has shown his abilities when he's been able to get playing time, but the Fire is crowded up front and he was using a valuable senior international slot," said Fire President and GM Peter Wilt. "Evan is a consummate professional who has always represented the Fire well in games, in training and in the community. He has contributed much to the Fire organization and we will miss him. The moves bring two opportunities to draft talented young players in the future, but more importantly they free up two valuable roster spots that we plan to fill in the next month."
Whitfield, who was acquired by the Fire in the first round (11th overall) of the 1999 MLS College Draft, registered 18 points on three goals and 12 assists in 103 career appearances (78 starts) since making his debut with the Fire on Mar. 25, 2000. He played in 23 matches (19 starts) in 2004, collecting his lone point of the season off an assist on Damani Ralph's 67th minute goal on Aug. 21 against Los Angeles, helping the Fire to a 1-1 draw. The Duke graduate became just the seventh player in club history to appear in 100 MLS games in a Fire uniform on Sept. 25 against New England.
A member of the Fire's 2000 and 2003 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Championships, the 27-year-old Whitfield was a key figure as the Fire captured its third Open Cup crown on Oct. 15, 2003 against the MetroStars, recording the game-winning assist on Damani Ralph's 68th minute goal to help the Fire to a 1-0 win at Giants Stadium. He also contributed to the Fire's three division titles in 2000 (Central), 2001 (Central) and 2003 (Eastern), as well as the club's first-ever MLS Supporters Shield in 2003.
Prior to joining the Fire, Whitfield spent the second half of the 1998-99 European season with KAA Gent (Belgium). He wrapped up his career at Duke by registering 17 points (1g, 15a) from 1995-1998. A key player for the U.S. Under-20 teams at the 1997 World Championships in Malaysia and at the World University Games in Italy in 1997, he was called to the U.S. Olympic team in Sydney, Australia in 2000 and appeared in 11 matches for the U.S. U-23 National Team.
"I'd like to thank both Evan and Dipsy for their many contributions to the Fire. They've been the ultimate professionals," said Fire Head Coach Dave Sarachan. "Dipsy scored some pretty big goals for us, especially this year in Open Cup play. I hope his move to Salt Lake will mark a fresh start for him and that he can see more minutes in MLS. We're grateful for Evan's great contributions to our club, especially in 2003 when he helped us capture the Open Cup title. He has been an outstanding professional and I wish him all the best in his new surroundings."
Selolwane scored seven points (3g, 1a) in 25 matches (six starts) with the Fire after being drafted by Chicago 36th overall in 2002. After playing in just six regular season matches during the 2002 and 2003 seasons, Selolwane burst out the gates in 2004 by leading the team in scoring during the preseason and notching a club-high seven points (2g, 3a) during four games in CONCACAF Champions Cup play. Selolwane scored four points on a pair of goals in 19 MLS matches in 2004, but saved his best for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, during which he scored the game-winning goal in a pair of 1-0 victories in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds to send the Fire to its fourth Championship match appearance in seven years of play in the tournament.
Selolwane is perhaps one of Botswana's most famous sports heroes, as he is the African nation's most dependable scorer for its National Team program. Selolwane has scored nine goals for the "Zebras" in 24 career appearances for the senior side, including the game-winner in Botswana's 2-1 win over Kenya in their most recent match on Oct. 9 in an African Zone World Cup Qualifying match. Prior to joining the Fire, Selolwane made his professional debut with Vejle Boldklub of the Danish Super League during the 2002 season. Chicago drafted Selolwane after he posted a 2001 season at the University of St. Louis in which he was the NCAA's co-leader in points (54) and leader in goals (25).