BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Dilly Duka never thought his former roommate and Columbus Crew teammate, Shaun Francis, belonged in the USL PRO, but that's where the Jamaican found himself when Duka's Chicago Fire took on Francis's Charlotte Eagles in the US Open Cup in May.
Francis impressed the Chicago staff during that game and two others against the Fire reserves, and the Fire signed him early this week to be their backup left back.
“Honestly, if he played any MLS team three times, they're going to pick him up,” Duka, who was drafted by the Crew in 2010, the same year as Francis, told MLSsoccer.com. “In those games he showed so well … He didn't belong [in the USL]. When he came here, I told him, 'This is where you're supposed to be, man. You're a good player, you should be at this level.'”
The incumbent backup at left back is second-year defender Hunter Jumper, but coach Frank Klopas told Chicago-Fire.com this week that the team is now viewing Jumper as a left center back.
Francis, who filled one of the Fire's two remaining international spots, arrived just in time to earn a start on Sunday in Vancouver (7 pm ET, watch on MLS Live).
Starting left back Gonzalo Segares will be suspended for the match because of yellow card accumulation, so Francis will have the chance to start after a week with the club. The 26-year-old will be available for selection pending the receipt of a visa that allows him to play in Canada, which would complete a move that has been months in the making.
“We played in the Open Cup game, and I did really well for myself, and a couple of days after I heard that they were interested,” Francis told MLSsoccer.com. “It's been going on and on since then … It finally came through.”
Francis, who received his P1 visa early this week, already has a half under his belt with the Fire after he played a half in Chicago's friendly against Club America Wednesday. Though he's only been with the team for a few days, Duka is confident that Francis will be able to step in immediately.
“Shaun's athletic, he's fearless, and he's really good technically. He's incredibly athletic,” Duka said. “Shaun's experienced, he's not a young guy, so if he steps in he's going to be ready. But I'm definitely happy to see him at this level … I'm really happy for him that he's here. I think he deserves it.”