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Fire adds six, trades Herron during busy 2007 MLS SuperDraft

January 12, 2007 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - Chicago Fire News Release

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Friday, January 12, 2007) - The Chicago Fire was among the busiest of the 13 teams taking part in today's 2007 MLS SuperDraft, which for the fifth consecutive year was held in conjunction with the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Convention at the Indianapolis Convention Center. The Fire's Technical Staff wasted no time in making waves, beginning the day by trading forward Andy Herron to the Columbus Crew in exchange for forward Ryan Coiner and the Crew's second overall pick in the draft.

After expansion side Toronto FC kicked off the draft by choosing University of Maryland midfielder Maurice Edu, the Fire used its newly-acquired pick to select University of Virginia defender Bakary Soumare. Chicago's braintrust wasted no time in increasing its attacking depth by choosing University of Alabama-Birmingham striker Jerson Monteiro with its second pick in the first round, the eighth overall. Chicago would round out the 2007 draft by keeping its natural selection in each of the last three rounds and taking Notre Dame midfielder Nate Norman (second round, 21st overall), Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville midfielder Mike Banner (third round, 34th overall) and Penn State forward Simon Omekanda (fourth round, 47th overall).

"The mindset going in is, 'Who are the best guys out there,'" said Fire Head Coach Dave Sarachan. "We've had a pretty good history of getting the guys we've targeted. It's not always going to happen, but I think we positioned ourselves to do that this year, and we followed through."

In his three seasons with the Fire, Herron notched 15 goals and three assists in 44 regular season contests (34 starts). The Costa Rican international saved his best for the 2006 season, when his nine goals led to his first Fire/Budweiser Golden Boot crown with the club. Coiner comes to Chicago after spending half a season with the Crew, where he registered one assist in six contests (four starts). Prior to joining MLS midway through the 2006 season, the University of San Diego product spent three seasons in Germany with Arminia Bielefeld II (2003-04), Union Berlin (2004-05) and Holstein Kiel (2005-06).

After redshirting in 2005, Soumare started 20 of his 21 appearances for Virginia during his freshman season in 2006, in which he earned Second Team All-ACC honors while helping lead the Cavaliers to the 2006 College Cup Semifinals. Although he is a citizen of Mali, Soumare holds a United States Green Card and therefore will not be counted as a youth international player on the Fire roster. Soumare was signed to a Generation adidas contract earlier this month.

"I was very, very surprised. For the past weeks we've heard of teams that were interested, but Chicago was never one of those teams," said Soumare. "People have been asking me every day for weeks, 'Where do you want to go?' I wanted to stay in a big city, being from New York City, so Chicago was definitely one of the teams on my list. I've been there before for soccer tournaments but haven't been around the city much, so I'm really looking forward to going to Chicago."

"He's an imposing figure when you see him, but you've got to have the rest that goes with it," Sarachan said of Soumare. "If you've got size you're going to be dangerous in the air. If you've got the mentality to go in on tackles, if you can play with your feet out of the back and you're a young player that's willing to learn, you can succeed. I think he hits all of those components."

The Fire selected Monteiro as its second pick in the first round, the eighth selection overall. A four-year starter at UAB, Monteiro was a three-time All-Conference USA player with the Blazers, being named to the First Team in 2006 and the Third Team in both 2003 and 2005. The Angolan National Team pool member notched 34 goals and 16 assists in 77 collegiate appearances (74 starts) and shined the brightest during his senior season, when he scored a career-best 14 goals and seven assists in 20 contests.

The Fire used the next two picks to add depth to its midfield by selecting Norman and Banner. After coming off the bench during his first three seasons at Notre Dame, Norman would prove to be a key midfield cog in 2006, starting all 23 of Notre Dame's contests and scoring two goals and a team-high seven assists in helping the Fighting Irish reach the College Cup Quarterfinals last November. Norman tallied seven goals and 13 assists in his 82 career games (33 starts) during his career in South Bend. After playing his freshman season at Georgetown alongside new Fire teammate Jeff Curtin in 2002, Banner transferred to NCAA Division II program SIU-Edwardsville for his final three collegiate seasons. Banner would play in 56 games across three seasons for the Cougars, scoring 18 times and adding 15 assists in helping SIU-Edwardsville to NCAA Div. II Final Four appearances in 2004 and 2005.

The Fire would close its draft day by selecting Omekanda in the fourth round. The Penn State striker was a four-year starter in Happy Valley, notching 20 goals and 26 assists in 83 games for the Nittany Lions, including 73 starts. The former Gatorade High School Player of the Year and NSCAA High School All-American continued to rack up accolades at Penn State, where he was a First Team All-Big Ten selection in both 2005 and 2006.

Bakary Soumare - 2nd Overall (First Round)

Position: Defender

Born: November 9, 1985 (21) in Mali

Height: 6-4 Weight: 190

College: University of Virginia

Hometown: New York, NY

Citizenship: Mali

MISC: Name is pronounced ba-CAR-ree SOO-mar-ray ... Holds a U.S. Green Card, meaning he will not count as a Youth International on the Fire's roster ... Born in Mali, but moved to Paris, France as a youth and later moved to New York City as a teenager.

Jerson Monteiro - 8th Overall (First Round)

Position: Forward

Born: April 28, 1985 (21) in Angola

Height: 6-0 Weight: 170

College: University of Alabama-Birmingham

Hometown: Houston, TX

Citizenship: Angola

Nate Norman - 21st Overall (Second Round)

Position: Midfielder

Born: March 2, 1985 (21) in Kansas City, KS

Height: 6-1 Weight: 170

College: Notre Dame University

Hometown: Rochester, MI

Citizenship: USA

Mike Banner - 34th Overall (Third Round)

Position: Midfielder

Born: October 20, 1984 (22)

Height: 5-10 Weight: 160

College: Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

Citizenship: USA

Simon Omekanda - 47th Overall (Fourth Round)

Position: Forward

Born: November 15, 1984 (22) in Camden, NJ

Height: 5-10 Weight: 170

College: Marshall University

Hometown: Cinnaminson, NJ

Citizenship: USA

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