Chicago Builds From the Back

The Fire add defensive experience to their ranks
by Kiran Balan   |   Monday, January 20, 2014

Ladder 97 – column on Chicago Fire & the Chicagoland area soccer scene.

In what proved to be a tough 2013 season for the backline of the Chicago Fire, the team has moved swiftly to add strong veteran experience in the heart of the defense.

The Fire traded rightback Jalil Anibaba to the Seattle Sounders for veteran defenders Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Patrick Ianni. In addition, the teams traded MLS draft positions.

Anibaba joined the Fire in 2011 and became fan favorite during his time with the club. As well as providing very strong performances during his tenure at rightback or centerback, he will be keenly remembered for his stunning 40-yard wonder goal against the Colorado Rapids in the US Open Cup qualifying rounds. In 96 appearances for the Fire, Jalil scored 4 goals. 

Many fans will be sad to see a quality defender with a lot of potential move to pastures new in Seattle. But as a result of the trade, the Fire have acquired 2 quality defenders of their own in Hurtado and Ianni.

Both Hurtado and Ianni join the Fire from a very strong and skilled Seattle Sounders squad, and can provided invaluable knowledge and depth to a shaky defense. New Fire manager Frank Yallop mentioned that depth was one of the problems going into the new season, but with the additions of Hurtado and Ianni the issue of defensive cover has been addressed.

“My big thing was I felt we didn’t have good depth, a big strong presence in the central defender area,” Yallop said about the trade.

Defense was a big issue for the Fire as they shipped out over 50 goals through out the 2013 campaign. With the likes of Bakary Soumare and Austin Berry being the incumbent defenders going into the new season, having depth will be crucial.

Hurtado joins the Fire having played 25 games for the Sounders during the 2013 season. A solid defender, he was named to the MLS Team of the Week on 2 occasions. Having started 103 out of 108 matches during his tenure with the team is a testament to his reliability on defense, which was missing for the Fire during crucial parts of the season. In 2009 during his first season in MLS, he was named to the MLS All-Star Team, and was a finalist for the Defender of the Year award during the same season.

Ianni joins the men in red after 5 years in Seattle. He has won 2 MLS Cups while playing for the Houston Dynamo. When healthy, Ianni is a pacey defender who provides a new dimension on defense and winning attitude to the team. Internationally, he was named to the US Olympic Soccer Team in 2008, and that shows that he can compete at a variety of levels of the game.

The Fire are continuing to rebuild their team and are working hard to make the 2014 season the best it can be. The restructuring of the team does come with calculated risks. Moving forward the defensive signings do give Chicago depth in the back, which was not the case in 2013. With a couple more influential signings the Fire should be in good shape for the upcoming season, and be a force to be reckoned with.

NEXT UP: March 9 – Chicago Fire vs. Chivas USA, StubHub Center, Carson, Calif. 3 p.m. EST, UniMas.


Illinois State University
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Chicago Fire
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Columnist for his hometown MLS team, Chicago Fire. When he’s not flying down the left wing for ISU FC or in a pick-up game, he can be seen watching the beautiful game. A die-hard Chelsea and USMNT fan, he is keen to growing his soccer knowledge.