By Michael Lewis
Here are some interesting facts and situations that have occurred at the MLS SuperDraft.
Midfielder-forward Darren Sawatzky was drafted three times. He was chosen by the New England Revolution in the 1996 college draft, by the Dallas Burn in the 1998 supplemental draft and by the Colorado Rapids in the 1999 supplemental draft. Sawatzky, who played for those teams, coaches the Richmond Kickers in USL League One.
In the third round of the 2003 draft, Chicago Fire FC selected three players on consecutive picks, an unprecedented feat. The Fire took Logan Pause as the 24th selection, Ryan Mack as 25th and Phil Swenda as 26th.
Some players are drafted to start their careers. Others are drafted and the wind up is that their career is revived beyond their wildest dreams.
Take, for instance, Kerry Zavagnin. After two years with the MetroStars, Zavagnin decided to play in the A-League. He rediscovered himself, and so did the Kansas City Wizards, who chose him as the 30th selection (sixth pick of the third round) of the 2000 draft. Not only did Zavagnin become a vital member (as a defensive midfielder) of the Wizards’ championship team that season, but he also eventually became a part of the U.S. national team pool and earned Best XI honors.
Zavagnin is an assistant coach with Sporting Kansas City.
Dancing with Dancy
The MetroStars selected defender Jake Dancy in the sixth and final round of the 2000 draft and apparently, they didn’t know of his nefarious background in which he severely injured former D.C. United midfielder Brian Kamler with a punch during a pre-season exhibition match between the MLS club and the U.S. Under-20 national team on Feb. 23, 1997.
Dancy dropped Kamler with a tackle in the waning minutes of United’s 3-0 win. Kamler got up and walked toward Dancy, whose fists, witnesses said, were already clenched. Doctors compared Kamler’s injuries to those of a head-on car accident. He needed a 4 1/2 hour operation to reconstruct his left cheekbone and place five metal plates in his skull. Dancy pleaded no contest to a felony assault charge and was sentenced to five years probation and 350 hours of community service along with a $500 fine. And oh yes, he was let go by the Metros before the start of the season.
Breaking up the Seals
Three of the top four picks in the 1998 supplemental draft came from the San Francisco Bay Seals of the A-League. The Chicago Fire took defender C.J. Brown on the very first selection. After the Mutiny chose Kansas City Attack forward Brian Loftin next, the Clash tabbed Tim Weaver and the Colorado Rapids picked forward Marquis White. No other Seals player was selected in the rest of the draft.
The med student
Even though he was the top college player in 1996 and was the second overall pick of the 1997 draft by the Mutiny, University of Virginia midfielder Mike Fisher decided not to turn pro. He decided to go to medical school, instead. The 1997 college draft was not very kind to the Mutiny. The Mutiny took a pass in the second round of the 1997 college draft and picked forward Musa Shannon in the third round. Wouldn’t have been easier to take Shannon in that second round?
A writer’s favorite
While this doesn’t deal directly with a particular draft pick, one of my favorite draft stories involves yours truly — at the 2003 draft in Kansas City. It was about a half hour before the proceedings began when United coach Ray Hudson came up to me and said, “You look like someone who would have something for an upset stomach.” Hudson was hoping for an antacid to calm his queasy stomach. All I had was Pepto-Bismol, which he gladly took. Minutes later, he took Alecko Eskandarian as the very first selection.
Prior to a United-MetroStars game at Giants Stadium early that season, I entered the D.C. locker room with some Pepto-Bismol, just in case Hudson needed any more.
More than happy to be there
Because he had played but eight games for St. John’s the previous fall, senior midfielder Chris Corcoran didn’t think he had much of a chance to be drafted by any of the 12 teams at the 2005 draft in Baltimore.
Still, his father managed to convince him to attend the MLS SuperDraft. While many of the aspiring pro players sat in a special section at the Baltimore Convention Center hoping for their name to be announced by either commissioner Don Garber or deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidis, Corcoran sat in the general audience in the back, just happy to be there. So, imagine the surprise when the 21-year-old Corcoran heard that he had been selected by the MetroStars.
“Beyond excited,” he said minutes after he was chosen. “My father actually had to talk me into coming down because I wasn’t sure I was going to be picked up by anyone. To get picked up by the MetroStars is like a dream come true. Because of my injuries, I wasn’t sure. I played in only eight games and I was fit for only one of them. I wasn’t sure if that was enough to get drafted. Luckily it was, and I’m excited.”
Corcoran decided to attend only two days prior to the draft. “He was just kind of talking me into it, saying it would be a great experience and if you didn’t get picked up you can use that to try to build a fire to get a spot somewhere,” he said.
Sign of the times
In what had to be one of the strangest scenes ever at a draft, the very first pick of the 2006 draft, Marvell Wynne (yes, he was selected by the MetroStars, about two months before they changed their name to the Red Bulls) accommodated a request by 2004 Metros fan of the year John Russo and signed his head. Honest. You can’t make this stuff up.