With the 2013 MLS SuperDraft less than a week away, it's time to start looking at some of the players that pundits have projected the Fire selecting.
There are a lot of names floating around out there connected with the Chicago Fire, and arguments can be made for or against every one of them. Thanks to the Wells Thompson trade, the Fire will only have one pick in this year's MLS SuperDraft (11th overall), so they are going to need to make it count.
There are 5 mock drafts out on the internet that are projecting 6 different potential players that the Fire could select. I have the six players listed below with reasons why the Fire will and why the Fire won't draft them.
MLS Pre-combine Mock Draft - Simon Borg, Matt Doyle & Jason Saghini
Kekuta Manneh - F - Austin Aztex
Who is he?
Kekuta Manneh is 17 year old Gambian, goal scoring machine. He is a Generation Adidas player who last played for the Austin Aztex in the USL PDL.
Why the Fire will draft Manneh:
This was Borg and Doyle's pick for Chicago. There are some people who are incredibly high on Manneh. He is both speedy and crafty, and he is being touted as a natural goal scorer. There are highlights of Austin Aztex dropping a 7-0 beat down on Texas Dutch Lions on YouTube. Manneh scores 4 of the goals in the match.
While the Dutch Lions's defending is poor as all hell, it does show that Manneh has a great finishing touch to him. All of those goals are quick one-touch goals with the exception of the third goal. Manneh's speed and raw skills would be a nice commodity to have on the squad.
Additionally, Simon Borg mentions that the Generation Adidas tag on Manneh might entice a financially hamstrung team like the Fire. This is a rare moment where I agree with one of Borg's points.
Why the Fire will not draft Manneh:
While he has high accolades, some people are still uncertain about him as relatively little is know about him outside of his time in the US PDL. Manneh is only 17, so he is still considered to be a raw talent in need of development. Any team that selects Manneh will be taking a gamble.
Erik Hurtado - F/M- Santa Clara University
Who is he?
Eric Hurtado is from the University of Santa Clara and is listed as a forward/midfielder/winger around the internet. In 2012, Hurtado had 1.95 points per game, which was the 5th most overall in the NCAA.
Why the Fire will draft Hurtado:
Hurtado was Saghini's pick for Chicago. The Fire scored a total of 10 goals from their forwards in the 2012 season. While Rolfe moving up top and the addition of Maicon Santos will help add more attacking power up top in 2013, Hurtado could be an additional option if Santos struggles like he did in DC. Hurtado is a force to be reckoned with. He's fast, strong and is great with the ball at his feet. Unlike Ketuka Manneh, many coaches and scouts believe that Hurtado could start at some point in his first year in the MLS.
There is a 12 minute highlight video of Hurtado on YouTube, which showcases Hurtado's quickness, strength and dribbling skills on display. At 5'9" and 180 lbs, he is not easily muscled off the ball.
Why the Fire will not draft Hurtado:
While he can play multiple positions, he is at his best when playing as a winger. The Fire do not appear to be moving in a direction were they will need a winger anytime soon.
Top Drawer Soccer - J.R. Eskilson & Travis Clark
John Stertzer - M- Maryland
Who is he?
John Stertzer is an attacking central midfielder for #3 ranked Maryland and is considered to be the engine of the midfield. An MLS Highlight video can be found here. There's also a nice little write up on him in the Maryland University student paper.
Why the Fire will draft Stertzer:
TopDrawerSoccer.com have the Fire selecting John Stertzer in both versions 1 and 2 of their mock draft. He is an attacking midfielder who many believe will be more of a holding midfielder in the MLS. With Logan Pause now in his 30's, and Pavel Pardo at the end of his career, it would be nice to bring in a younger player who Pause could mentor. Yes, the Fire have an incredibly packed midfield, but that just means we will need to say goodbye to some one. Wells Thompson perhaps?
Why the Fire will not draft Stertzer:
Logan Pause still has a few years to go, so getting a holding midfielder this year is not exactly a pressing need. It is also very likely that Stertzer will be gone by the time the Fire are on the clock.
WV Hooligan - Drew Epperly
Carlos Alvarez - M - Conneticut
Who is he?
Carlos Alvarez is a attacking midfielder from Conneticut, Alvarez is one of the top midfielders available in the SuperDraft.
Why the Fire will draft Alvarez:
Drew Epperly stated that Alvarez could fit with the Fire, even after the Lindpere trade, by getting experience as a substitute. This is a good point. After all, who is going to be Lindpere's backup? Alvarez has been touted as having the ability to create chances for himself or other players on his own. He specializes in creating that final pass for teammates. There is no doubt that Carlos would be a special talent to have on the team.
Why the Fire will not draft Alvarez:
I had read somewhere that Alex had a 3 year option on his contract but haven't heard anything about Alex recently. This pick would make sense if Alex is not coming back for 2013. If Alex is returning, or if the Fire feel like they have something just as good in their midfielders who ride the pine, the Fire might pass on Alvarez if he's available. That is a big if.
College Sports Madness - Donovan Brown
Matt Lodge - M - Kentucky
Who is he?
Matt Lodge hails from England. He is an attacking midfielder for the Kentucky Wildacats.
Why the Fire will draft Lodge:
Lodge has skill and could possibly be the Will Bruin of this draft. There is a highlight reel of him on YouTube from 2012. In 2011 Lodge played all 17 matches this year, notching 7 goals and 10 assists. Lodge is flying very far below the radar.
Why the Fire will not draft Lodge:
Lodge is probably flying below the radar because his 2012 goals and assists totals were down from 2011, and Kentucky did not get as much attention as other schools. If the Fire really wanted this guy, they could probably assume that will go unpicked in the draft and get him up afterwards.
DraftSite - Automated Draft Bot?
John Schoenle - D - West Virginia
Who is he?
John Schoenle is a centerback from West Virginia.
Why the Fire will draft Schoenle:
The Fire are getting thin at the backline with only three centerbacks on the roster, and Arne Friedrich is injury prone. Schoenle is a 6'2" aerial threat who many have described as a tough, physical defender. He seems to have good ball handling skills for a centerback, which might make it possible to convert him to fullback if necessary. Schoenle also netted 6 goals last year. MLS has a short highlight video up on their website.
Why the Fire will not draft Schoenle:
If Arne gets injured, Jalil Anibaba can move back to centerback and Tony Walls or Steve Kinney (if healthy) can cover right back. Frank must trust one of these players since he let Dan Gargan go to San Jose via the Re-Entry Draft. Additionally, Arne and Gonzalo Segares are the only seasoned veterans on the Fire backline. While the Fire are lacking depth in defence, it might be best to fill that depth with a veteran presence.