Austin Berry

Fire get defensive again with Berry

The Chicago Fire held the ninth overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft for the second consecutive year, and for the second straight year, they used the pick on an experienced defender they think is capable of contributing right away.

Chicago picked Louisville center back Austin Berry with their first-round selection on Thursday, nearly one year after they nabbed defender Jalil Anibaba with the same pick. The Fire filled out their draft class with two second-round picks, taking Dartmouth forward Lucky Mkosana No. 23 overall and selecting Virginia defender Hunter Jumper with the 28th pick.

The 23-year-old Berry played for Chicago’s PDL team and trained with the Fire first team in the summer of 2010. Chicago’s coaches grew familiar with Berry’s game that summer, something that played a significant role in Thursday’s selection.

“Austin Berry is a player we know very well,” Fire head coach Frank Klopas said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday afternoon. “He’s played in our PDL program, he’s trained with the first team, and we’ve had an opportunity to see him many times.”

Berry’s talent in the air and maturity made him attractive to the Fire. He’ll add depth to a relatively strong back four, giving Klopas another option in the middle along with Anibaba, Cory Gibbs, Josip Mikulic and Yamith Cuesta.

“We felt he was the best center back in the draft,” Klopas said. “He’s a very solid defender, good in the air, a good man marker, a very mature player and someone who can come in and have an impact right off the bat.”  

Klopas was also relatively high on Mkosana, a 5-foot-8 forward who scored 34 goals and notched 10 assists in four years at Dartmouth.

“He’s a player we had gotten good reports from,” Klopas said. “He has a lot of mobility and strength to get behind.  He’s also a technical player that can play with his feet fast and is a good two-way player.”

Klopas said that Jumper will add depth at outside back, a relatively thin position for Chicago.