Fire drafts midfielder; might loan Fernandez
BY SETH GRUEN For Sun-Times Media January 17, 2013 10:38PM
Uruguay's player Diego Polenta marks Cameroon's Yazid Atouba (R) during their FIFA Under-20 World Cup football match held at the Nemesio Camacho "El Campin" stadium in Bogota, Colombia, on August 5, 2011. AFP PHOTO / Guillermo Legaria (Photo credit should read GUILLERMO LEGARIA/AFP/Getty Images)
The Fire entered the MLS SuperDraft on Thursday looking for an insurance policy on the left side of the midfield.
With rumors that Fire outside midfielder Alvaro Fernandez, a Uruguayan national, could be loaned to Qatari side Al-Rayyan for six months, the Fire wanted more depth at his position.
So it used the 30th overall pick, its only selection, on Cameroonian midfielder Yazid Atouba.
Fire president of soccer operations Javier Leon said the club was exploring loaning Fernandez but no deal was imminent.
Al-Rayyan coach Diego Aguirre told a Uruguayan sports radio station that the deal was all but official. Leon said that wasn’t the case.
“[Fernandez] is interested in potentially doing this thing in the Middle East,” Leon said. “The main reason is the coach that he would be playing [for]. This is the coach [Aguirre] that knows the [Uruguayan] national-team coach.
“He feels this would be a good move for him at least on a temporary basis. We’re exploring it, but it has to be the right type of deal for us.”
Atouba adds the speed and athleticism Fire coach Frank Klopas likes coming off the bench. Atouba has the ability to put pressure on tired defenders toward the end of games.
“The training conditions I’ve had to play under in Cameroon aren’t as good as in Chicago, where they have top facilities and a great stadium,” Atouba said in a team statement. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity.
“My strengths are my speed, ability and technique. I feel like I have a lot to offer in those areas.”
The Fire concluded what arguably has been the best offseason for any MLS club. The team re-signed defenders Arne Friedrich and Gonzalo Segares and traded for midfielders Joel Lindpere and Jeff Larentowicz. All four likely will start.
“We have always been known for our speed,” Leon said. “And to get more athletic and to get more dynamic was certainly one of the things that we were hoping to do.”
NOTES: Fire midfielder Pavel Pardo, who has appeared in the second-most games in Mexican national-team history, is considering retirement, according to a Fire spokesman.
◆ Dylan Remick, a Brown defender who went to Loyola Academy in Wilmette, was drafted by the Seattle Sounders in the second round (No. 35 overall).