Boyzzz Khumalo
Chicago Fire

'Boyzzz' makes the jump to 'Men in Red'

competition is the name of the game in the pros.

"I think it's going to be competitive," Khumalo said of the Fire's approaching preseason. "In the training room, everybody works hard. By just seeing that you can tell that it is going to be very physical. [Tuesday] we did some running and I got a little tired ... it was very physical. Everyone will be working hard and hopefully the best thing will happen for me. We'll see how it goes."

One thing Boyzzz does have going for him is that he is no stranger to the Fire organization. Prior to his stellar senior season at Coastal Carolina University, where he finished second in the nation in assists in 2004 with 16 helpers, Khumalo played for the Chicago Fire Premier (then the Chicago Fire Reserves) during the Premier Development League's 2004 season last summer. In 12 regular season appearances, the native of Soweto, South Africa, finished with seven assists, placing him in a sixth-place tie in the category across the 55-team league. Having had the opportunity to join the MLS team for training last year gave Khumalo a taste of what to expect over the next two months as he looks to gain a place on the Fire's senior team roster.

"I know two or three of them [from last year], but it's still a learning process because there's so many new guys," said Khumalo. "When I trained with the senior club for a week last summer there was a big difference from training with the Reserves. They take it real serious because they are professionals, where with the Reserves we worked hard but we also had a lot of fun. But it is very serious here. It is still a learning process, but it is a fun one."

While many soccer players look forward to simply being picked on draft day, Boyzzz's MLS plans were realized when he became a member of the "Men in Red." Eight of the 48 players chosen in the 2005 MLS SuperDraft were members of the Fire Premier last season, but only Khumalo and forward Chris Rolfe made the leap from the PDL powerhouse to the team's MLS namesake, a jump that Khumalo was hoping would come to fruition.

"I think that was the whole thing for me -- to play with the Reserves and then go to the first team," explained Khumalo. "That's how it worked out, so I'm glad for that and I'm looking forward to it."

One thing the new pro doesn't have to go through is the whirlwind experience rookies often have of acclimating to new surroundings in a hurry. Having spent part of last year in Chicagoland, Boyzzz is taking his move to the Windy City in stride.

"I've lived here for three months last summer, so it's nothing new to me," Khumalo said. "It's like the same old thing for me, just a different day."

The 2004 season was not the "same old thing" for the Fire, and Khumalo is hoping to latch on with the club and help the squad begin a different era in 2005. While his immediate impact will remain to be seen, Fire fans will certainly hope that Boyzzz can start driving opposing defenders crazy - or would that be crazzz? - as soon as possible.

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