PHILADELPHIA -- After identifying that the club’s defensive corps needed reinforcement this offseason, new Fire head coach Frank Yallop continued to make waves on the back line at Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft.
One day after acquiring veteran central defenders Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Patrick Ianni from Seattle, Yallop bolstered the right side of the back line by selecting Marco Franco out of UC-Irvine with the 13th overall pick.
“We had a good chat about our only pick,” Yallop told Chicago-Fire.com. “Watching all the players in the combine and knowing Franco before we got here as well, I knew he was a competent, good player. You never know if they’re going to step up to the pro level but I thought he had a solid combine and plugs in well to a position need we wanted to fill.”
Shortly after his name was called by MLS Commissioner Don Garber, Franco couldn’t hide his excitement at being selected by the Windy City club.
“I’m speechless right now,” Franco told Chicago-Fire.com “It was hard to believe – a dream come true. I’ve wanted to be drafted since I was little and the dream is happening now. I’m so excited and eager to get started. It’s just a blessing to get drafted by a great organization like the Fire.”
Following Wednesday’s trade with Seattle which saw the club’s starting right back Jalil Anibaba go to the Sounders, Yallop indicated that his staff may have been looking to strengthen the team’s depth at the position.
The Fire started down that road with the acquisition of Lovel Palmer from Real Salt Lake last month and Yallop said he considered returning defender Steven Kinney as the Jamaican international’s understudy. The first-year Fire manager did however speak to Kinney’s injury past and the possible need for a backup plan should the 2010 draftee have continued problems with his health.
That back-up plan appears to come in the form of Franco who appeared in 76 games, tallying 10 assists in four seasons with UC-Irvine. He also spent the past two summers with USL Premier Development League side OC Blues, appearing in 15 games in that time.
Named a 2013 NSCAA Second Team All-American, Franco was rated by most pundits as the second best right back in the SuperDraft behind Generation adidas signee Eric Miller who was selected fifth overall by Montreal.
In Franco the Fire get a confident, attacking right full back that should be able to contribute this season and push Palmer on the right flank. He's also capable of playing in the middle.
“I’m really attack minded, I like to combine, I like to create a lot of opportunities for my teammates. I just bring hard work and I think that fits into the Chicago style.”
- FOLLOW: Marco Franco @ShmushFranco
The Chino Hills, Calif. product refers to himself as “a student of the game” and is looking forward to learning from the club’s experienced players.
“I want to come in and give it my all but most importantly I want to learn from the other veteran players. I’m a student t of the game so I just want to keep learning every day and push for their starting spot.”
Franco compliments an already strong Fire rookie class that features Homegrown signings Harry Shipp and Chris Ritter. Shipp was a runner-up for the MAC Hermann Trophy and projected to be a top three pick in the draft while Ritter was seen as a top 15 choice.
“When you don’t have many high picks, you try to make sure you position yourself well,” said Yallop. “We went out to get a certain position – either left or right back and we felt Franco was our top pick at that point.”
Yallop and his staff will finish filling out the club’s rookie class in rounds three and four of the MLS SuperDraft, set to be held next Tuesday, January 21 via conference call. The team holds the 61st, 65th and 75th picks next week.