Akron's draft class potentially ranks among the all-time greats
Akron set a single-school draft record with seven players taken
Five of Akron's players were taken in the first round
The UCLA draft class of 2000 is arguably the greatest single-school haul ever
BALTIMORE -- The University of Akron's romp to the NCAA men's soccer national championship was just the first chapter in the legacy for coach Caleb Porter's 2010 squad. With a record seven players taken in the MLS SuperDraft on Thursday, the 2010 Zips could potentially supply the strongest haul of talent by one college program in a single draft.
With the increased influence that college players have had on MLS and the greater amount of time and resources dedicated to scouting various youth levels, it should come as no surprise that many of the top draft classes of all time have been produced in the last five years. That being said, what Porter (himself a third-round pick by the San Jose Clash in 1998) and Akron have been able to accomplish in terms of player personnel is quite impressive when considering how widespread the talent in the college game is today.
"We have a bunch of soccer junkies that want to be pros, and when you have that and a group of guys that are all trying to do the same thing, I think that helps inspire and pave the way for each of them to accomplish their dreams," Porter said.
Five Zips were taken in the first round, another record for one school. All five of Akron's Generation adidas signees were taken in the first eight picks: Darlington Nagbe went to Portland with the second pick; Perry Kitchen fell to D.C. United at No. 3; Zarek Valentin landed with Chivas USA at No. 4; Kofi Sarkodie was selected by Houston at No. 7; and Michael Nanchoff went to Vancouver at No. 8.
"It's a credit to Coach Porter and what he's done with the program," Sarkodie said. "I'm so proud of all those guys. They're all fantastic players. It shows that Akron is doing things right.
"It's absolutely amazing what we've done at Akron, and to all be in the position to be in the top 10, we just look back and say, 'Wow.' "
Seniors Chris Korb (No. 31 to D.C.) and Anthony Ampaipitakwong (No. 33 to San Jose) rounded out the haul for Akron.
"I knew these kids would be good when I recruited them, and to see them go five of the first eight as underclassmen, it shows how talented they were, and it shows how hard they've worked since they've been in our program," Porter said. "It's a dream come true for seven guys, and it's a big reason why I do this, to help these guys reach their potential and accomplish their goals. I'm very honored to have worked with these seven guys, and they're going to do very well at the next level."
Where will Akron's seven players rank among single-school outputs in MLS draft history? That answer won't be concrete until at least a couple of years from now. Here are the top five classes provided by a school (minimum of three players per class) that they'll be compared to down the road:
1. UCLA, 2000 -- (Steve Shak, first overall to NY/NJ; Carlos Bocanegra, fourth overall to Chicago; Sasha Victorine, 11th overall to Los Angeles; Peter Vagenas, 23rd overall to Los Angeles; Nick Rimando, 35th overall to Miami)
The MetroStars' No. 1 overall selection of Shak notwithstanding, UCLA's 2000 class might boast the most quality that a program has produced in a single draft. Bocanegra, the current U.S. national team captain, was the 2000 MLS Rookie of the Year, and he was a two-time MLS Defender of the Year before heading overseas to play for Fulham, Stade Rennes and St. Etienne. Victorine and Vagenas both enjoyed solid playing days that included brief stints for the United States. Rimando is one of the top goalkeepers in MLS, has an MLS Cup MVP award (2009) and has also been in the U.S. picture over the years.
2. UCLA, 1996 -- (Adam Frye, fourth overall to Tampa Bay; Chris Snitko, fifth overall to Kansas City; Greg Vanney, 17th overall to L.A.; Eddie Lewis, 23rd overall to San Jose; Ante Razov, 27th overall to L.A.)
Snitko, a former U.S. U-23 goalkeeper, and Frye each had journeyman careers, but it was the trio of Bruins taken in the final two rounds of the draft that made the biggest impact out of the bunch in the inaugural college draft.
Vanney, Lewis and Razov each enjoyed time with the U.S. team throughout their playing careers. Vanney, now an assistant coach at Chivas USA, was one of the better defenders of his era. Lewis, whose sublime cross found Landon Donovan for the second goal in the U.S.' 2-0 victory over Mexico in the 2002 World Cup, retired after this past season. He left San Jose after four seasons for a long-tenured stay in England, only to return to MLS in 2008 to finish out his career with the Los Angeles Galaxy. Razov scored 114 goals in his storied career -- doing most of his damage with the Chicago Fire and Chivas USA -- and is third on MLS' all-time goals list.
3. UCLA, 2006 -- (Marvell Wynne, first overall to New York; Patrick Ianni, eighth overall to Houston; Jonathan Bornstein, 37th overall to Chivas)
Wynne never caught on in New York, was dealt to Toronto FC in 2007 and traded again to Colorado in 2010. He flourished with the Rapids after being shifted from fullback to center back by coach Gary Smith, helping guide the Rapids to the 2010 MLS Cup title and earning an invitation to the U.S.' January training camp. Ianni, coming off a strong season with Seattle, has matured into a respectable starter in MLS. Bornstein, a fourth-round find by Chivas USA after his two teammates went in the first round, has blossomed into a stout defender, emerging as a starting left back for Bob Bradley during the 2010 World Cup. He is now with UANL Tigres in Mexico.
4. Maryland, 2009 -- (Omar Gonzalez, third overall to L.A.; Rodney Wallace, sixth overall to D.C.; Jeremy Hall, 14th overall to New York; A.J. DeLaGarza, 19th overall to L.A.; Graham Zusi, 23rd overall to Kansas City)
The jury is still very much out on Wallace and Hall, two promising, attack-minded players who have been used primarily as defenders in MLS and have dealt with injury woes throughout their professional careers. Both will look to be rejuvenated with the Portland Timbers in 2011. As for Gonzalez and DeLaGarza, the Galaxy teammates were recently called into the U.S. training camp, and both have emerged as quality defenders in MLS. Gonzalez was a finalist for MLS Defender of the Year this past season. Zusi has been primarily a reserve in his two years in the league.
5. Akron, 2010 -- (Teal Bunbury, fourth overall to Kansas City; Blair Gavin, 10th overall to Chivas USA; Ben Zemanski, 47th overall to Chivas USA)
While the 2011 Akron draftees could very well surpass their 2010 counterparts, Bunbury, Gavin and Zemanski each should be solid, if not standout, MLS starters for years to come. Bunbury, the 2009 Hermann Trophy winner as college soccer's top player, has emerged as a viable forward in the U.S. player pool after seemingly choosing the United States over his native Canada for his international career. He made his U.S. debut in November in a 1-0 victory over South Africa. Gavin and Zemanski both evolved into starting midfielders for Chivas during their rookie campaigns and are expected to grow in those roles.
Wake Forest, 2005 -- (Michael Parkhurst, Scott Sealy, James Riley, Amir Lowery);
Wake Forest, 2009 -- (Sam Cronin, Michael Lahoud, Evan Brown, Lyle Adams, Jamie Franks, Marcus Tracy);
Indiana, 2005 -- (Danny O'Rourke, Drew Moor, Jay Nolly);
Wake Forest, 2010 -- (Ike Opara, Zack Schilawski, Corben Bone, Austin Da Luz).
Avi Creditor is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C.
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