By Orrin Schwarz
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The MLS SuperDraft on Thursday was never going to happen without the Chicago Fire. It just seemed like it.
After a series of relatively routine moves in the past week -- signing a pair of talented homegrown college stars, adding a backup goalkeeper, re-signing a couple of players already on the roster -- the Fire continued to groggily awaken from its self-imposed December news blackout by announcing a trade and hoping Chicago would sit up and take notice.
The Fire on Wednesday dealt young starting right back Jalil Anibaba, a former first-round draft pick, to Seattle for two veteran central defenders: Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, 29, a Colombian who holds a U.S. green card and thus will not take up an international roster spot, and Patrick Ianni, 28.
Both players still could be bargaining chips in another trade, as new coach and director of soccer Frank Yallop acknowledged Wednesday.
Hurtado and Ianni add depth and competition for returning starters Bakary Soumare and Austin Berry. Lovel Palmer, an under-the-radar December addition, assumes the right back spot, for now, with oft-injured Steven Kinney behind him.
But Hurtado and Ianni are not the only reasons Yallop made this deal. It also helps with the league salary cap.
"It's really been a challenge with our budget, but I feel we're getting it under control," Yallop said, later adding, "It was a tight one to start with."
Chicago and Seattle also exchanged first-round draft choices in Thursday's draft (11 a.m., ESPNews), with the Fire dropping to No. 13 from No. 8.
It's not big news like signing Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe, but then this isn't Toronto. Yallop said he's not likely to sign a designated player this off-season, but you never know.
"Anything could happen. My feelers are out," he said.
"What I didn't want to do is panic into it and make the wrong decision on a DP," Yallop added, a statement that sounds wise but eerily reminiscent of the previous front office's ultracautious, paralysis-by-analysis approach.
"We're trying to make sure we're set up for years and in the right manner," Yallop said.
As for the draft, Yallop said the drop to No. 13 matters little with so much depth this year. Wednesday's trade makes it unlikely he will pick a center back in a draft loaded at that position.
And maybe after the draft the club will stand and fight for space in the Chicago sports media market instead of fading back into obscurity.
Follow Orrin on Twitter @orrin_schwarz