When Corben Bone was selected 13th overall by the Chicago Fire at the 2010 MLS SuperDraft in Philadelphia, many folks that knew the college game called the pick a steal.
A Generation adidas signee, Bone won the NCAA College Cup with as a freshman with Wake Forest in 2007 and was coming off a year where he was named ACC Offensive Player of the Year, quite an honor in the nation’s top soccer conference.
Things didn’t exactly go according to plan.
One of four Fire draftees signed by the Fire that year, Bone played the least of them all, watching as fourth round pick Sean Johnson became the team’s starting goalkeeper and roommate Steven Kinney locked down the spot at right back in the second half of the season.
Appearing in only five matches, perhaps the worst moment came in the one game he did start as head coach Carlos de los Cobos pulled him out in the 38th minute of a 2-0 loss to Kansas City in October.
“There are going to be ups and downs for sure,” Bone told Chicago-Fire.com. “You have to stay focused on the goal and continue to try and get better. That’s part of the game of soccer.”
He’d get more of a chance in 2011, earning his first assist in a 2-2 draw at Toronto FC that May and coming a great Jimmy Nielsen save away from his first MLS goal in a 0-0 draw at Sporting KC the next month.
But as the team made a frantic, late-season push for the MLS postseason, his time dwindled again, ending 2011 with just 534 minutes and 10 appearances.
Though he often made the bench last season, Bone ended up playing in a career-low two MLS matches. As the season ended and his Generation adidas contract ran out, most weren’t shocked when his name appeared on the list of Fire players available or the MLS Re-Entry process in early December.
Surprising some, Bone opted out of Re-Entry and worked toward a deal to re-sign with the club which was announced last month. He had a reason for it.
“I love the team, the coaching staff, the players, the city, everything,” said Bone. “If I had the chance to come back, I wanted to take advantage of that. Obviously I want to play and be a part of a group that’s succeeding and I think this is that group.
“I enjoy my work every day I’m here. I wanted to be a part of this still.”
So Bone enters his fourth year with the Fire on less money than the Generation adidas contract he previously had but still with other opportunities.
Upon re-signing last month, it was announced the Plano, Texas product would spend the first phase of preseason with Team for the World alliance partner Atletico Madrid, something Bone says was more than beneficial.
“It was fantastic. To go over there and play with a top club and learn things here and there at this point in preseason when I can come back to the Fire and use that skill to my advantage was priceless.
“You interact with the players that do the same things we do but in a different environment and it was awesome to take in. I learned some important things that I think I can take with me throughout my whole career.”
Having arrived into Fire camp late Sunday night, Bone trained just once with the team on Monday before slotting straight into the starting eleven for Tuesday’s friendly vs. Chivas USA.
Playing with something to prove, the Madrid experience seemed to do him well as Bone looked full of confidence on the left wing, combining well with Gonzalo Segares, Joel Lindpere and Sherjill MacDonald.
In what will certainly be a crowded Fire midfield this year, the performance was perhaps a necessary one for the fourth-year Fire player to state his case for more time in 2013.
“In a team, competition is very important and I think we have a lot of good midfielders that we brought in and have been here before. It just increases the skill level that we’ll all have to play with and that’s going to make the team better.”
Even still, Bone’s display Tuesday showed why the club worked hard to keep him in Chicago and perhaps revealed more as to why he wanted to stay instead of starting somewhere else.
“I’ve had great relationships with a lot of the players and its one of the main reasons I wanted to come back to play with those guys again. To be with them day in and day out is awesome. I missed it for sure.
“To play with some of your best friends and be on the field with them is one of the best things.”