Friday, January 9, 2009

Generation Adidas and the MLS SuperDraft

Photo Credit: University of Akron

Generation Adidas (formerly known as Project 40 when it was sponsored by Nike) is a program designed to increase the talent level of young American players. It encourages early entry (i.e. before college graduation/completion of NCAA eligibility) into MLS with the stipulation that Generation Adidas players chosen in the SuperDraft do not count against a club's senior roster (often ensuring that these players earn only the league minimum salary). It should be noted, however, that since their professional contract ends their NCAA eligibility, the program also provides each player with a scholarship to finish their college studies if they are unable to progress in their professional career.

Just yesterday the 2009 Generation Adidas class was announced, with 9 players on the list. These names are always interesting, as last year's Top 3 picks (and 6 of the first 8 picks) were Generation Adidas players. The class features 2 defenders, 4 midfielders, 2 strikers, and 1 lone goalkeeper (Stefan Frei, of Cal; although born in Switzerland, I don't believe he is related to the Swiss international - it's like "Smith" over there). 3 of the players (Omar Gonzalez, Jeremy Hall, and Rodney Wallace) are from the national champion Maryland Terrapins.

The most interesting name on the list, however, is that of Steve Zakuani. The striker from the University of Akron led the nation in goals with 20, and in points per game with 2.14. Originally born in the Republic of Congo, Zakuani was raised primarily in London where he played on the Arsenal youth squad from 1997 through 2003. Spotted by the Zips coaching staff when they were evaluating a different player, Zakuani brought Akron all the way to the #2 ranking in the country and is a finalist for the M.A.C. Hermann Trophy, to be announced tomorrow evening. He was named the Mid-America Conference POY, Soccer America POY, and 1st-team NCAA Division I.

Soccer clearly runs in the family, as Steve's older brother Gabriel came up with Leyton Orient and Fulham (where he was eventually loaned to Stoke City), and currently plays for Peterborough United in the Colaship.

Projected by some to be the #1 overall pick in the SuperDraft, it remains to be seen if Zakuani can keep up his form and be more Maurice Edu than Freddy Adu.


mgd said...

I played at Akron from 1992-95. There have been some good teams/players in the past 17 years. Its good to see the program get some recognition for all the players and coaches hard work. Cheers!

mgd said...

ps- Steve is an insane player with mad skills and we were lucky enough to have watched him play over the past couple season. Good Luck to him in his pro career!