Sam Rodriguez juggles the ball with CJ Brown and Brian McBride

Wish granted

It wasn't hard to pick out Sam Rodriguez from among the two dozen-plus soccer players working out at a recent Chicago Fire team practice.

The Muchin College Prep sophomore and cancer survivor was the kid with the big smile as he participated in passing and shooting drills on a Toyota Park training field in Bridgeview. And when he kicked a ball past highly regarded rookie goalie Sean Johnson, Sam swooped around the field in celebration.

"I scored three goals on him!" said Sam. "The whole day was great."

Although not a member of the Major League Soccer squad, the 15-year-old recovering cancer patient sure felt like one.

The 90-minute training session was arranged by the Make a Wish Foundation, a national group that helps children with life-threatening illnesses.

The group grants ill children's wishes by organizing trips to theme parks, horseback rides, music video shoots and, in Sam's case, a chance to practice with the Fire.

To read the rest of this story, visit