Chicago Fire coach and director of soccer operations Frank Yallop said Marco Franco had a clean touch, an ability to get forward as a right back, and he never talked about playing overseas in predraft interviews, where Yallop saw a “twinkle in his eye.”
Yallop was so impressed by the UC Irvine defender that he made the 22-year-old the 13th pick in last week's SuperDraft, filling a glaring need at right back that was created the day before the draft when Yallop traded incumbent starter Jalil Anibaba to Seattle for center back pair Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Patrick Ianni.
“Once we did the trade for the two center backs with Seattle, then our focus changed a little bit to outside back to sort of strengthen the area,” Yallop said. “One of the first things I thought, I liked his character … He said he wants to learn, he said he wants to get better, he didn't mention Europe, which when you interview some of these kids, it's all about wanting to go to Europe.”
Franco may have the chance to fight for minutes, or at least a backup spot, right away. Lovel Palmer appears to be Yallop's early choice to start at right back, but the Jamaican can also slide over to left back and play in the midfield if needed.
Yallop mentioned Steven Kinney as an option at right back, but the 26-year-old has played just two games over the last three years while struggling with various injuries. And so with a new head coach and no returning starter at his spot, Franco sees a chance to break into the lineup early in his MLS career.
“It's exciting. It's a new coaching staff, it's just a fresh start, I want to go in and show what I have and compete for that spot, and I think I can,” Franco said. “I have the ability to start. I just want to be able to jell with the team and go with their flow and to be able to get into the attack and create opportunities and create goals. I think I fit in well to the Chicago Fire's style of play.”
Yallop has added four natural defenders this offseason, while subtracting one. He alluded to future moves the day before the draft, and he said the Fire have a player coming over on trial from his offseason scouting trip to England and Spain. But for the most part, Yallop seems comfortable with the roster he has in place.
“We're bringing in a some guys in preseason to have a look,” Yallop said. “We have enough quality coming in off of trials and people we're bringing into the squad that we're going to fill that. We've only got a couple of spots to fill, that I think come March 9, we'll be ready to go.”
Anthony Zilis covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com.