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Fire take Polster seventh overall in MLS SuperDraft

Matt Polster, center, poses with Fire coach Frank Yallop, right, and technical director Brian Bliss on Thursday in Philadelphia. | Chicago Fire

Not too many observers expected Matt Polster to be a first-round pick in Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft in Philadelphia. Though he had an impressive combine that led to some buzz and talk of his stock rising, Polster rarely showed up as a first-round candidate in reputable mock drafts.

The Fire’s opinion of the Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville player was a bit higher, and they showed that by making him the seventh overall pick and first defender selected. Coach Frank Yallop said the Fire had Polster second on their board, and once their first choice was gone, Polster was next.

“I think he’s a strong candidate for us,” Yallop said. “Hopefully it all works out. You obviously don’t know but I’ve got hopes and dreams it does work out.”

In Polster, they see a versatile and athletic player who will begin his career as a center back but could also play as a central midfielder. The Fire were also familiar with him, having seen him play for their Premier Development League team three times last year.

Perhaps most importantly he’s capable of playing on the back line, an area the Fire knew they needed to fortify. But when asked if the Fire took Polster because he was the best player available or whether he fit a need, Yallop said it was a bit of both.

“He was liked by a lot of the coaches, and speaking to the guys they liked him,” Yallop said. “It was a need that we needed. We needed to fill that center back back-up role, if you like.”

Yallop, however, didn’t rule out a more expansive role if Polster can handle one.

“If he’s good enough to be playing well he’s playing,” Yallop said. “I want him to come in and compete like I do with all my players.”

Just the chance to do that in Chicago clearly meant something to Polster.

When he was selected and approached the lectern to speak to the Philadelphia audience, Polster briefly was emotional. He buried his head in his hands to gather himself, clearly affected by what had just happened to his life.

“I’ve been playing since I was three and the goal is to go pro,” Polster said. “To finally have the opportunity, because I still have to work hard, but to have the opportunity that’s been presented to me really got me.

“Now I’ve just got to go in and work hard but it’s definitely emotional because I’ve always wanted this to happen.”

In the second round, the Fire took Saint Louis University forward Kingsley Bryce with the 28th overall selection.

The final two rounds of the draft will be held Tuesday via conference call.