Shaun Francis

Is new Chicago Fire defender Shaun Francis the first beneficiary of new MLS/USL relationship?

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- After a year away from MLS, new Chicago Fire defender Shaun Francis couldn’t hide his joy at returning to the North American top-flight on Thursday.

“I’m very excited,” he told “I just have to stay humble and still come in and put in the hard work. I’m very happy to be here and it’s great to help the team.”

After a hamstring issue and roster constraints saw him waived by Columbus last June, the Jamaican defender bided his time with USL Pro’s Charlotte Eagles the first half of 2013.

“The ultimate goal was to keep working hard, wait for my chance to come again and grab it with both hands.”

READ: Fire sign ex-Crew defender Shaun Francis

An alum of NAIA powerhouse Lindsey Wilson College, Francis made 12 appearances, tallying three goals as two assists from his defensive position for the Eagles in league play this season.

More than his form in league matches though, Francis is perhaps the first benefactor of the new relationship between MLS and USL, which allows clubs in the two leagues to have affiliate relationships and has MLS reserve sides playing two matches a season against USL teams.

Did Shaun's goal seal his move to the Fire?

For the Fire, not only did they get to see Francis provide danger in their 2-0 third round U.S. Open Cup victory over the Eagles on May 29 in Rock Hill, S.C. but also two more reserve matches over the course of the month.

The Jamaican international impressed in all three matches and even scored the game winner in the last game, a 2-1 Charlotte win over the Fire at Toyota Park on June 29. 

“[The Reserve and Open Cup games] definitely helped,” said Francis. “You might have other teams looking at you but when you play against a team three times and you’ve done well in each game, it definitely shows there’s something about that person. I think they looked at it and thought highly of me. I’m very happy for that.”

With the Fire needing to add depth on the back line, the signing makes a lot of sense.

Francis had been with the Fire since Sunday and began training with the team this week but was unable to officially appear for until receiving his international transfer certificate and new P-1 visa.

Those came through literally hours before Wednesday night’s friendly vs. Club America which allowed Francis to come on as a halftime sub for Gonzalo Segares.

READ: Could Fire add more defensive depth with Cuesta, Vasquez?

With Segares suspended due to yellow card accumulation for Sunday’s league game at Vancouver, Francis could be thrown into the lineup from the start on Sunday.

Asked earlier this week whether he’d look to plug the new left back in for Segares, head coach Frank Klopas was non-committal but indicated that he saw previous left back deputy Hunter Jumper as more of a center back going forward.

If he’s asked to start on Sunday, Francis says he’s ready to play.

 “I’m definitely ready to go if I’m called upon. You have to be ready at all times because in this league there’s no time to waste. You have to put in the hard work and when your name is called you have to go.”