MLS SuperDraft: Fire can be patient with int'l pick Atouba

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MLS SuperDraft: Fire can be patient with int'l pick Atouba
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MLS SuperDraft: Fire can be patient with int'l pick Atouba

INDIANAPOLIS – This time, the Chicago Fire can afford to be patient.

After not signing international second-round pick Lucky Mkosana last year, the Fire drafted Cameroonian Yazid Atouba Emane with the 30th pick in Thursday's SuperDraft. But this year, they're not strapped for international spots, so the 20-year-old will have a better chance to stick than Mkosana did.

“We don't have that issue right now [with international spots],” head coach Frank Klopas said. “If he's good enough, we have the ability to keep him. I think we've done a good job, especially with Guillermo [Petrei, vice president of soccer operations] and Javier [Leon, president of soccer operations], with long-term guys to start that process right away, where we don't have the issue we've had in the past.”

With Álvaro Fernández looking a safe bet to leave for Qatar, the Fire have been looking for help on the left side of the midfield, and Atouba Emane may be able to provide cover at that spot.

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But Leon said the pick wasn't just a need-based pick.

“Ultimately, we felt he was the best player at that point in the draft,” the Fire president said. “We're looking for a left winger. He can play on the left and the right. He has speed, and he was willing to come in as an apprentice.”

Klopas said the Fire front office had their eyes on Emane when he played for the Cameroonian Under-20 national team, and he further impressed them at the Combine.

The next five weeks, when the Fire will travel for preseason, will have a lot to do with whether he signs.

“Is the guy going to stick? I don't know,” Klopas said. “We'll see. But the kid has some qualities. He's fast, he's a very good one-on-one player, and I think he's got pace at wide. In the Combine, when you saw him have opportunities to take players one-on-one, he wasn't hesitant. He's got international experience. You bring him in, there's no guarantees.”

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