The Fire have snatched up a very notable defender in the 2011 MLS Superdraft hosted in Baltimore. Article from ChicagoBreakingSports.Com

The Fire landed a highly regarded defender Thursday in the Major League Soccer draft, but Jalil Anibaba said his first objective is to listen and learn.

“I’m now a rookie and no longer a veteran,” Anibaba, 22, said via conference call from draft headquarters in Baltimore. “So I have to take a student role and open my ears to learning.

“What I can do is just try to go in with an open mind, learn as much as possible and try and contribute in any possible way needed.”

Anibaba started 84 of 85 college matches, first at Santa Clara and then at North Carolina, where he landed first-team Atlantic Coast Conference and second-team All-American honors as a senior.

The Tarheels, who averaged 0.71 goals against, reached the NCAA Division I College Cup semifinals before falling to eventual runner-up Louisville.

He will help fill defensive holes created by the retirement of one-time captain C.J. Brown and the departure of Wilman Conde.

Anibaba was the ninth overall pick and among four Fire selections. They had no second-round pick, but had three in the third and final round.

A 6-foot, 170-pound central defender, Anibaba was named most valuable player in last week’s MLS Combine gathering of top draft prospects.

“It’s was just the combine, it’s just another step in being a professional,” he said. “It was by no means playing professional soccer or playing professional matches … now it’s time for the big time.”

Frank Klopas, the Fire’s technical director, called Anibaba a great addition.

“His ability to play defensive soccer, distribute the ball from the back and control the back line will help us as we head into the 2011 MLS season,” Klopas said.

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