Fire PDL product Balchan "blessed" with new Chicago opportunity

Claimed off waivers, Balchan ready to prove he belongs with Fire

AVE MARIA, Fla. -- While a full trialist list should be released this week, one current guest player the team isn’t exactly keeping under wraps is PDL and Indiana Fire Academy alum Rich Balchan.

After a reasonably strong rookie campaign a utility defender and even central midfielder for Columbus in 2011, Balchan, 24, was limited to just a few Reserve appearances last season as he toiled through a niggling sports hernia injury first suffered in July 2011.

“My groin is good now, its 100 percent,” Balchan told Chicago-Fire.com Sunday. “It was pretty frustrating though. I rehabbed for six or eight weeks and was ready to go and I tweaked it again and had another surgery.

“It was up and down, up and down three times there over the last year and a half. It’s a blessing to be healthy now after all of that.”

Placed on waivers over the offseason, the Fire claimed a player they played a part in producing during his college years with a view towards him adding more proven league depth on the backline.

Because he was claimed off waivers, Balchan’s MLS rights currently belong to the Fire though he is an unsigned invitee to training camp. A strong showing in training camp though seems likely to lead to a contract offer.

“Rich is a guy we know well that came into MLS his rookie season and had a very good year,” Frank Klopas told Chicago-Fire.com. “He’s had some setbacks with injuries and I think he’s a guy we’re going to look at right now -- if he can get that form back that he had his first year then we’re going to be very happy.”

With 19 MLS games under his belt, Balchan could end up being the player that fills the role as the team’s utility defender or even push incumbent starter Jalil Anibaba on the flank.

“I’m really fortunate to have this opportunity after being out for so long,” he said. “Since getting picked up on waivers I’ve been excited to get into camp and prove that I belong with this team. I know I do, I just have to prove it.”

Klopas seems to carry that same confidence.

“If he gains the form he can have a big impact.”