The Chicago Fire addressed their lack of depth in two important areas Thursday, drafting defender (North Carolina) Jalil Anibaba with the ninth overall pick and selecting forwards Jason Herrick (Maryland) and Davis Paul (California) with the 45th and 51st picks.
The Fire was also active on the trade market, dealing the 49th pick to Toronto FC for backup goalkeeper Jon Conway.
“We’re very excited and happy about the day we had today,” Fire technical director Frank Klopas said in a conference call with reporters.
“These kids are good players and they’re going to make our team better… I’m looking forward to the start of the preseason.”
Selecting Anibaba was the Fire’s biggest move of the day. The 22-year-old center/right back – who was named MVP of the 2011 Combine – is a solid addition to a new-look back line that will feature fellow newcomers Cory Gibbs and Josip Mikulic along with 2010 holdovers Gonzalo Segares, Kwame Watson-Siriboe and Steven Kinney.
“We had him ranked very highly,” Klopas said. “We were actually a little bit surprised he was even available for us. But he’s a guy that can play different spots, he’s got good feet, he’s a good athlete, he’s a good technical player and he’s got good upside.”
[inline_node:326503]Klopas said he expects that Anibaba to compete for a starting job right away.
“He’s a good player,” Klopas said. “He’s good in the air, he’s good in 1-v-1 challenges and he has the ability as a center back to pass the ball out of the back with both feet and switch the point of attack… He also a vocal guy in the back; he commands leadership.”
WATCH: Anibaba highlights
While Herrick and Paul don’t have Anibaba’s potential for immediate impact, they do add depth to a forward group that was looking dangerously thin following the offseason departures of Brian McBride (retirement) and Collins John (released).
“Herrick is more of a No. 9 type,” Klopas said. “He’s good around the box, has very good feet and is very smart, very intelligent with the runs he makes.”
“Paul is more of a second striker,” Klopas added. “He’s very quick and very good in tight spaces. He’s an exciting player… and we’re very excited to have him.”
Though the additions of Herrick and Paul certainly boost the forward numbers, Klopas hinted that he’s planning on bringing in another striker or two before preseason camp opens later this month.
“Obviously these guys are good forwards, but all of them need time to adjust,” he said. “We’ve been looking very hard with some of these trips we’ve been taking – looking at players that can provide the help that we need right away.”
Klopas said that Conway, 33, will serve as one of two backups to starting keeper Sean Johnson. The team only had one backup last year but will add a third in 2011 due to the expanded roster size and potential elimination of pool goalkeepers.
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.