The state of Georgia has produced a number of quality American soccer players from World Cup veterans Clint Mathis and former Fire striker Josh Wolff, to World Cup hopeful and former Fire PDL midfielder Ricardo Clark all hail from the land of peaches and Coca Cola. Fire rookie Steven Kinney is just another addition to the list of Georgians in Major League Soccer.
A product of the northeastern Atlanta suburb of Norcross, Kinney was selected 45th overall by the Fire in January’s MLS SuperDraft. Because he wasn’t taken during the first round, the Elon University (North Carolina) alum sat in his apartment, hitting refresh on the league’s Draft Tracker. Finally at number 45, Kinney found out he was Chicago-bound.
“I was elated when I found out it was the Fire,” said Kinney. “A few of my friends sat around the computer with me, keeping me calm and when it finally came through it was quite a celebration. I was happy to be selected by a team with such a rich history.”
While he’s not the first player from Georgia to sign in MLS, he did set a precedent earlier this week as the first player from Elon to sign a Major League Soccer contract.
“It’s an honor to be first,” said Kinney. “After I was drafted, I knew I had to work hard to earn a spot on the team and I’ve tried to use every training session to improve and make a good impression on Carlos [de los Cobos] and his staff.”
Kinney’s effort hasn’t gone unnoticed by Fire Technical Director Frank Klopas.
“We believe Steven has a very bright future ahead of him,” said Klopas. “He has a lot of strength and athleticism and he came into camp with a lot of confidence for a rookie. Now he has the opportunity to develop into a great center back in this league – it’s just the beginning for him.”
An iron man of sorts, Kinney appeared in 77 matches during his four years with the Phoenix, featuring in all but one game during his collegiate career, while being named to the Southern Conference Best XI three years in a row. He also spent last summer with the Carolina Dynamo of the Premier Development League, where he lined up with fellow Fire draftee, midfielder Corben Bone.
Joining a professional team as a rookie is a challenge, having to deal with a coach’s notions about every player, but Kinney and all four Fire rookies coming in have the benefit of a fresh start under the club’s new head coach Carlos de los Cobos.
“I’ve really enjoyed the training sessions that we’ve done since I’ve been here. Carlos is a well respected coach and has a process to the way he runs his team and the players have all responded really well. I’d also say that working with Profe [Soccer Fitness Specialist Alvaro Briones] has helped my conditioning in a big way.”
Kinney turned heads earlier in February after being inserted into the starting lineup in the club’s friendly with the Arizona Sahauros. Playing with what most would consider a projected starting 11, Kinney partnered in central defense with veteran defender Wilman Conde, helping the team earn a shutout in the 1-0 victory.
“I’ve had a very good preseason and I’m looking forward to starting my first year in MLS. There’s still a long way for me to go, but I’m happy with what I’ve done during the last few weeks and my goal now is to put everything I have into training with the hopes of making my debut with the first team soon.”