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Fire need spark from Wanchope


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Fire need spark from Wanchope

Costa Rican cites ties to Osorio in sealing decision

By Luis Arroyave

Tribune staff reporter

July 27, 2007, 9:22 PM CDT


Costa Rican striker Paulo Wanchope officially joined the Fire on Friday, becoming the second international star to sign with the team this season, joining Mexico's Cuauhtemoc Blanco.

He is expected to make his Fire debut against the Columbus Crew next Saturday at Toyota Park and will wear No.12.

Wanchope (pronounced wahn-CHO-peh) should have no trouble assimilating to the United States after having lived in San Diego as an exchange student. He was an outstanding basketball player in high school with scholarship offers from UNLV and Michigan State. Instead, he returned to Costa Rica to pursue soccer.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Wanchope is Costa Rica's all-time leading international scorer with 45 goals in 72 games.

He retired from the national team after the 2006 World Cup to concentrate on his club career.

He played most recently with Japan's FC Tokyo but left in June saying on his Web site he never adapted to his coach's style of play.

The striker spent a large part of his career in the English Premier League, playing for Derby County, West Ham United and Manchester City before joining Spain's Malaga CF in 2004.

It was at Manchester City that Wanchope developed a relationship with Fire head coach Juan Carlos Osorio, who was an assistant there.

"I'm very happy to come here," said Wanchope, who turns 31 Tuesday. "I know Juan Carlos from a long time ago, so I know he's a very good coach. The setup in Chicago will help me regain my level of the game.

"The interest to come here was to have a new experience and I saw the connection with Juan Carlos and that was the key."

Osorio said Wanchope's résumé appealed to the Fire.

"He's a good target man," Osorio said of the 6-foot-4-inch Wanchope. "He's a strong athlete and holds the ball well. Most importantly, he has scored goals at every level—including the World Cup."

During the opening game of the 2006 World Cup, Wanchope proved to be a handful for Germany's defense as he scored two goals in a 4-2 loss to the host country.

His biggest flaw: inconsistency.

The Fire has lacked scoring since forward Chris Rolfe was sidelined with an ankle injury in mid-May.

The team has been shut out in six of its last nine games, going 1-5-3.

"For a team that's sitting in last place in the Eastern Conference, the excitement and morale in the locker room is so high you would think we were in first place," Fire general manager John Guppy said.

Rolfe expects to return in early August while midfielder Justin Mapp could return from his groin injury soon. With Rolfe and Wanchope up top and Mapp and Blanco pushing the ball, the Fire should have one of the best attacks in Major League Soccer.

Defender Jim Curtin was placed on the season-ending injury list.


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