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Building for the future

Developmental players dominate MLS SuperDraft

Posted: Sunday January 19, 2003 1:19 PM
Updated: Sunday January 19, 2003 1:25 PM

ATLANTA (CNNSI.com) -- Each of the first six selections in Major Leauge Soccer's SuperDraft were part of the Project-40 developmental program. (Selections | Quotes)

Held in conjunction with the 56th annual Convention of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, Friday's six-round draft featured the selection of 60 players.

D.C. United's opening selection of MAC Hermann trophy winner Alecko Eskandarian opened the floodgates, as Ricardo Clark (Furman/MetroStars), Nate Jaqua (Portland/Chicago Fire), Mike Magee (U.S. U-20 national team) and David Stokes (North Carolina/D.C. United) followed the former University of Virginia standout.

Eskandarian scored 25 goals last fall as a junior and decided to give up eligibility for his senior season. He figures to join Santino Quaranta and Earnie Stewart on the United's front line. Stewart, a veteran U.S. World Cup forward and midfielder, was acquired by the United on Wednesday.

The MetroStars traded midfielder Brad Davis, the rookie of the year runner-up and the third pick in last year's draft, to Dallas for the fourth overall pick. The MetroStars used the pick to choose forward Magee, who led the U.S. under-20 team with 14 goals last year.

After Stanford defender Todd Dunivant (San Jose Earthquakes) and SMU midfielder Diego Walsh (Columbus Crew) came off the board in picks six and seven, the final Project-40 signing of the first round was selected. U.S. U-17 national team standout Guillermo "Memo" Gonzalez, a Paramount, Calif., native, stayed home and joined the defending MLS Cup champion Los Angeles Galaxy.

Created in 1997, Project-40 is a joint venture between MLS and U.S. Soccer aimed at providing America's top young players with the opportunity to play and train in a professional environment on a daily basis. Players signed to Project-40 contracts receive an educational stipend in addition to their salary and a developmental spot on the roster of their MLS club. They do not count against their teams' rosters or salary caps.

"I'm very glad to be in Los Angeles because I will have the opportunity to play near home and be close to my family," said Gonzalez, a creative Mexican-American midfielder. "I'm very happy right now, and I want to finish my work with the U-17s and the World Cup Qualifying.

"After that I hope to obtain a starting position next year with the Galaxy and continue to work hard. Ultimately, my goal is to play on the senior national team -- of the United States, of course."

The first round wrapped up with the New England Revolution taking Indiana University forward Pat Noonan and the Dallas Burn trading up with the Galaxy to select University of Connecticut defender Shavar Thomas. The Huskie strongman joins former UCONN teammate Chris Gbandi, who was selected #1 in the 2002 MLS SuperDraft by Dallas.

Another four Project-40 players were taken during the first five picks of the second round, as Brian Carroll (Wake Forest/D.C. United), Eddie Gaven (U.S. U-17 National Team/MetroStars), Arturo Alvarez (U.S. Under-18 National Team/San Jose Earthquakes) and Jason Thompson (Eastern Illinois/Dallas Burn) brought the day's Pro-40 total to 10 in the first 15 picks.

The remaining three Project-40 signees -- Clemson defender Ricky Lewis (Los Angeles Galaxy), Logan Pause (Chicago Fire) and Jacob LeBlanc (MetroStars) were selected 20th, 24th and 42nd respectively.

Gaven, the youngest player signed in MLS history at 16 years and 2 months, also gets the chance to develop his professional skills in his own backyard. The Hamilton, N.J., native joined U-17 teammate and star forward Mike Magee under the tutelage of MetroStars coach Bob Bradley.

MLS teams have until Tuesday to cut their rosters to 29 players (23 senior, 6 developmental). Two days later, a waiver draft will be held if necessary. The pool for this conditional draft will include those players waived on Tuesday, as well as any players submitted by the teams to the league player pool.

Teams will have until March 17 before they must be in final compliance with the league's 24-player roster limit.

Major League Soccer's eighth season opens on April 5 as the Columbus Crew host the Los Angeles Galaxy live on ABC at 4 p.m. ET.

Galaxy drafts midfielder, acquires Chacon

PASADENA, California (AP) -- The Los Angeles Galaxy acquired the rights to unsigned forward Alex Pineda Chacon, the most valuable player in Major League Soccer in 2001, by trading goalkeeper Matt Reis to the New England Revolution.

The Galaxy then selected midfielder Guillermo Gonzalez, the leading scorer from the U.S. under-17 national team, with its first-round choice in the league's SuperDraft on Friday.

Galaxy general manager Doug Hamilton said he believes the team has an excellent chance of signing Pineda Chacon.

"I feel very good about Alex coming here," Hamilton said. "He's excited about the opportunity to play again with a team that can compete for a title and to play in a system that makes more sense for his abilities."

Gonzalez was chosen with the eighth overall choice, obtained in 2001 from Colorado in exchange for defender Robin Fraser. Gonzalez is expected to report to the Galaxy in June after graduating from high school, but would leave the team later in the summer if the U.S. qualifies for the under-17 world championship in August, Hamilton said.

He had 26 goals and 11 assists in 56 games for the under-17 team in 2002.

"I've seen Guillermo play since he was 12 years old," Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid said. "He's a player that can make plays in games. He has a tremendous shot. He might already be our best player on free kicks.

"He's a player that still has a tremendous room to grow. His technical ability is excellent for a kid his age. He has such great ability and such great skills. He's the kind of player the Galaxy will able to able to build around in the future."

 
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