BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Just over a month after being confirmed as a Fire Homegrown player, the club made official the signing of 2013 College Cup MVP and ACC Offensive Player of the Year Harrison Shipp on Thursday.
After playing an instrumental role in leading Notre Dame to their first-ever NCAA College Cup last month, Shipp’s signing was the most anticipated Homegrown acquisition of the MLS offseason and one that the player himself has been looking forward to for a while.
“It’s a dream come true to sign with the Fire,” Shipp told Chicago-Fire.com. “I think living in Chicago my whole life and playing with the club, it’s setting up to be a perfect situation on and off the field.”
A product of Lake Forest, Ill., Shipp played his senior year of high school in the Fire Academy before heading off to South Bend in Fall 2010. The single year wouldn’t have been enough to earn Homegrown status but Shipp went on to play a part with the club’s PDL and Super-20 teams each of the following summers.
Shipp credits his transition to the Fire player development setup as a huge boost in his ability to grow as a player.
“I think transitioning from other clubs in Chicago to the Fire brought a lot more professionalism to my experience. I think having that experience and bringing it into college was vital. Staying within the system during the summers was important.”
In anticipation of his possible Homegrown signing, Shipp trained much of the past summer with the club’s first team, leading into a senior season at Notre Dame where he tallied 12 goals and 10 assists over 24 games, leading the Irish to December’s national championship.
“He’s had a wonderful season with Notre Dame,” said Fire head coach Frank Yallop. “He’s got the ability to play between the lines, he’s crafty on the ball and very smooth with it. Harry’s just one of those players you like watching. We have to get him up to speed on the pro game but hopefully there’s a bright future for him.”
At last month’s Season Ticket Holder Town Hall, Yallop compared Shipp to a young Mike Magee and while that’s nothing to complain about, Shipp says the Fire player he’s most modeled himself after is longtime forward Chris Rolfe.
“I watched Chris when I was younger during his first go-round with the Fire and admired his game,” he said. “Even this summer, just the professionalism he has with the club and attitude he brings to training every day. We’re similar players in that we both think fast and I think that’s the key to being successful at this level. He’s someone I try to emulate both on and off the field.”
Shipp played a similar role to Rolfe with the Irish as the underneath striker next to Notre Dame’s hulking forward Vince Cicciarelli this past season and says he’s always prided himself on putting his teammates in good situations on the field. Shipp did it throughout the season but also when it counted most, tallying an assist, in both of the Irish’s College Cup matches.
“I was able to do that on top of scoring some goals myself. I think one thing I improved on this year was getting my own opportunities to score and I had my largest goal output this year which was something I was proud of."
Shipp potentially has one more accolade to collect before fully going pro as one of three finalists for the MAC Hermann Award set to be handed out Friday night in St. Louis.
“People have been asking me about it and I say that I’ve already won the trophy I wanted to win this year which was the national championship. I know I played well this year and those that watched me know I played well so the outcome of this isn’t going to determine my life but it’d be a nice way to cap a special season.”
Whether or not he wins college soccer’s version of the Heisman Trophy, the ability for the Fire to sign one of this year’s top prospects directly is a and avoid the draft is an obvious benefit and one the player says has made the last month or so much easier.
“I think it takes a lot of the stress out of the process,” he said. “I have the comfort of being somewhere that’s a good fit for me on and off the field and not having to worry about the combine or draft allows me to settle in. I know I’m going to be living in Chicago and I can get to know the whole organization better.”