With the MLS SuperDraft, you never really know. It’s not like the NBA, where a superstar college player usually translates into, at the very least, a quality pro. The unusual transition from college to pro soccer can be rough for many players, and as one source put it, every pick is essentially a calculated gamble.
With that said, did the Chicago Fire get it right in 2022, selecting four straight defenders? Will any of these guys translate into the defensive version of a Daryl Dike or Tajon Buchanan—a guy who came through the SuperDraft to become a star? Perhaps we should lower the standards here: will any of them actually end up playing for the Fire? After all, no draft pick in the Georg Heitz era has ended up playing for the club. Brandt Bronico and Elliot Collier are the last two guys to achieve that.
If any SuperDraft pick is a calculated gamble, other clubs have placed far better bets than the Fire in recent years. Will this year be any different? Maybe. Unlike years past, the Fire have the new MLS Next Pro as a landing spot for guys who are close, but not quite ready. The yet-to-be-named “2” team isn’t a sure landing spot, though. All of the picks will have the opportunity to fight for a spot on the first team in training camp.
Kendall Burks, Defender, 11th overall
The Fire really like Kendall Burks, who played his college soccer at the University of Washington. Hot Time got a look at the Fire’s targets ahead of the draft, and the 6’ 2” Burks was indeed one of the guys on the short list. When the draft started shaking out, the Fire opted to trade down from the No. 7 pick to No. 11, picking up $100,000 in General Allocation Money from the New York Red Bulls. They felt Burks would still be there at 11, and he was.
Here’s the issue, though. Burks is on trial at Nottingham Forest in the English Championship at the moment. SB Nation’s Jeremiah Oshan reports Burks qualifies for a UK passport through his mother, meaning he won’t need a work permit. The Fire knew all of this, and talked to Burks’ reps ahead of the pick. Does that mean he’ll end up in Chicago rather than England? That’s not clear yet. Whatever happens, the Fire control his MLS rights through the end of 2023.
Charlie Ostrem, Defender, 33rd overall
Ostrem, also a defender, also from the University of Washington (we’re seeing a trend here), earned All-American and PAC-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors after his junior season, followed that up with an All PAC-12 First Team selection for his senior season. Ostrem wrapped up his career at Washington with 75 appearances (61 starts) and 22 assists, which ranks ninth all-time for the Huskies.
Carlo Ritaccio, Defender, 63rd overall
Ritaccio seems like an awfully strong pick for No. 63 overall, and a guy who could sneak his way onto this Fire team. He spent the last four seasons with the University of Akron, where he made 58 appearances (52 starts) for the Zips. As a freshman, Ritaccio was part of a Zips’ defensive unit that posted eight shutouts in the 2018 campaign, while tallying three goals, all in the postseason, en route to being named the National Freshman of the Year by TopDrawerSoccer.com, as well as being tabbed to their Freshman Best XI first team. Internationally, he has earned call ups to the U-14, U-15 and U-17 level for the U.S. Men’s National Team.
Yanis Leerman, Defender, (85th overall)
Interesting pick, here. Leerman is from Troyes, France, and started every match of his four year career at the University of Central Florida. He was an All-American his junior season, and bagged his first goal, along with three assists in his senior season.
Other area players
A couple other Chicago-area guys ended up going in the top three picks of the 2022 MLS SuperDraft. Naperville goalkeeper Roman Celentano, who played for Sockers FC and was teammates with Fire homegrown Victor Bezerra at Indiana, went No. 2 overall to FC Cincinnati.
And at No. 3, FC Dallas grabbed Isaiah Parker, a forward from Saint Louis University who played for FC United’s Academy.