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Anibaba is Fired up after MLS Draft

By January 13, 2011

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He\’s hot and he\’s cold. But mostly, Jalil Anibaba is happy to have fulfilled a lifelong dream.

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“I\’m just excited,” Anibaba said in a video on the Chicago Fire website after the team drafted him ninth overall during Thursday\’s MLS SuperDraft.

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“Excited to relish in the moment with my family and very excited to be part of the club and honored. I\’m looking forward to getting a big jacket, because I gotta stay warm. That\’s number one on the list.”

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After a standout career on Yudin Field, and then making a name for himself on the national stage with Team USA, Santa Clara and North Carolina, the former Blue Devil made it clear one last time at the 2011 MLS Combine that he is a budding soccer star. Anibaba, a 22-year-old defender, was named the Tom Fitzgerald Most Valuable Player when the four-day combine in Florida that featured 70 other pro prospects wrapped up on Wednesday.

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“It was just the combine, it\’s just another step in being a professional,” the 6-foot 170-pound defender said on a conference call from the draft headquarters in Baltimore. “It was by no means playing professional soccer or playing professional matches … now it\’s time for the big time.”

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Anibaba signed a deal with MLS prior to the draft and, per club and league policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed. He joins a team that has lost two key defenders — C.J. Brown and Wilman Conde — giving him a chance to make a difference as soon as the Fire\’s regular season begins on April 14.

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“Jalil is a stout defender who will be a great addition to the Chicago Fire Soccer Club,” said Chicago\’s technical director Frank Klopas. “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.”

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For Anibaba\’s part, he knows he is new to professional soccer and he hopes to soak up as much information as he can.

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“I\’m now a rookie and no longer a veteran,” Anibaba said. “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.”

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If his past play is any indication, that contribution will be strong.

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The 2007 DHS graduate — who helped the Devils win the 2005 Sac-Joaquin Section championship — was named a second team All-American in 2010 as he paced a stingy North Carolina defense. With Anibaba leading the way, the Tar Heels allowed just 0.71 goals per game and posted 12 shutouts on their way to the national semifinals in Santa Barbara.

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Notes: While at DHS, Anibaba won the 2006-07 California Gatorade Player of the Year award for his senior season. … The former Blue Devil played for Team USA\’s U20 squad and participated in the 2007 Pan Am Games. … The Fire also selected California forward Davis Paul in the third round. … MLS expansion team Vancouver had the overall No. 1 pick and took 17-year-old forward Omar Salgado, a member of the U20 U.S. national team. … 2010 NCAA champion Akron had five players taken among the top eight picks.

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Enterprise staff

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