Monday Postgame: Ranking the best-ever lower division college players to make a name in MLS

Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes

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USA Today Sports

The SuperDraft is in the books, preseason training camps are under way, and the March 8 start to the 2014 MLS season is drifting into view – really, you can see it if you squint across the snow-blanketed horizon.

There may be no one looking more eagerly in that direction than the less-pedigreed players who were selected in the 19th edition of the MLS SuperDraft during the past two weeks.

Players like Tesho Akindele from the Division II Colorado School of Mines, Daniel Jackson from South Carolina’s Coker College – also a D-II school – and Pierre Omanga from the 2013 D-II national champion Southern New Hampshire Penmen (worst college nickname of all time, or best?) are no doubt chomping at the bit to show what they can do at the highest level in the US.

And center back Richie Marquez from Division III Redlands, well, he’s playing with house money.

As one of only two D-III players invited to the MLS Combine, Marquez probably wasn’t on many radar screens on Day 1 of the event. That changed when he became one of only five players to produce Top 10 scores in two of the three categories measured in the league’s physical tests (speed, vertical leap, and agility).

Marquez then held his own in games involving the top college players in the country, and, last Tuesday, the Philadelphia Union selected him with the sixth pick of the SuperDraft’s third round (44th overall).

Can he stick?

Time will tell, of course, but the numbers are not in his favor. Division III college players who’ve forged MLS careers are more scarce than coaches with a kind word for MLS fourth officials.

But there have been a few – and there’ve been more than a few Division II players who’ve made the grade.

With that in mind, here are the Postgame’s all-time Top 5 NCAA Division II and Division III MLS players. (No Juco or NAIA players considered.)

Division II

5. Rodrigo Faria, Concordia
MLS Career: MetroStars, 2001-02; Chicago, 2003; San Jose, 2003

The 2001 MLS Rookie of the Year had an eventful but abbreviated career in the league. He scored 20 goals in 49 appearances for the MetroStars (including a team-leading 12 goals and five assists in 2002), and bagged the dramatic winner in the greatest comeback in MLS history, San Jose’s wild OT win over the LA Galaxy in the 2003 Western Conference semifinals.

4. Marcus Hahnemann, Seattle Pacific (pictured right)
MLS Career: Colorado, 1997-99; Seattle 2012–

The heavy-metal loving, shaven-headed Hahnemann made a mark with the Rapids in the early days of the league before embarking on a successful career abroad, where he helped Reading win promotion to the English Premier League in 2006. At 41, he’s currently the Sounders’ backup goalkeeper.

3. Mike Petke, Southern Connecticut State
MLS Career: MetroStars, 1998-2000; D.C. United 2003-05; Colorado, 2005-08; Red Bulls 2008-10.

One of the few bright spots in the New York franchise’s darkest early years, Petke, the club’s current head coach, remains one of its most beloved players. He won an MLS Cup with D.C. in 2004 and was a three-time MLS All-Star. He also earned two caps for the US national team.

2. Davy Arnaud, West Texas A&M (pictured right)
MLS Career: Kansas City, 2002-11; Montreal, 2012-13; D.C. United 2014-

A Kansas City stalwart for the better part of 10 years, Arnaud was named captain of the team in 2010. He also captained the expansion Montreal Impact in 2012, when he scored the first goal in club history in front of a crowd of 58,912 at Olympic Stadium. Arnaud has seven caps and one goal for the USMNT.

1. Chris Wondolowski, Chico State
MLS Career:  San Jose, 2005, 2009-; Houston 2006-09

Wondo is co-holder of the all-time MLS record for goals in a season, bagging 27 in 2012 to tie Roy Lassiter’s landmark 1996 output. He’s been the league’s hottest striker since 2010, averaging 18 goals a year, earning three MLS Best XI selections and 17 caps with the US national team.

Division III

5. Alex Blake, Williams/Ross Schunk, Redlands

Blake made three appearances and logged 23 minutes of MLS action in 2003, while Schunk stuck with Colorado for two years (including their 2010 championship season), got into a few US Open Cup matches – and saw 10 minutes of MLS action.

4. Jeff Moore, Richard Stockton
MLS Career: MetroStars 2002-03

The 66th selection of the 2002 SuperDraft, Moore opted to finish his education and didn’t join his new MLS team until May of the 2002 season. Yet he quickly won the starting defensive midfielder position, holding it for 18 games during which he produced three assists and prompted New York fans to think they’d found a true diamond in the rough. It didn’t last, though, as the diminutive midfielder was cut in May of the following season.

3. Greg Sutton, St. Lawrence
MLS Career: Chicago, 1999-2000; MetroStars 2000; Toronto FC, 2007-09; Red Bulls 2010-11; Montreal 2011-12

The rangy goalkeeper spent the prime of his career with Montreal when they were in the second tier, but he had his moments with MLS expansion side Toronto FC and with the Red Bulls, where he began the 2011 season as the starter before battling for minutes with Bouna Coundoul and ultimately being supplanted by the disastrous signing of German Frank Rost. Sutton earned 16 caps for Canada.

2. Khari Stephenson, Williams (pictured right)
MLS Career: Kansas City, 2004-05; San Jose, 2010-12; Real Salt Lake 2013

The rangy Jamaican international played in the 2004 MLS Cup with Kansas City, and appeared in 27 games for the 2012 Supporters’ Shield-winning San Jose side. In between, he won the 2009 Norwegian Cup with Aalesunds FK. He has 32 appearances and three goals for the Reggae Boyz

1. Dan Calichman, Williams
MLS Career: LA Galaxy, 1996-98; New England, 1999-2000; San Jose, 2000

After graduating from Williams in 1990, Calichman launched his pro career in Japan, becoming the first (and still only) American to play in the J-League. He captained the Galaxy in 1996, earning an MLS All-Star nod. Stints with the Revolution and the Quakes followed, before he wrapped up his career with Charleston in the A-League. Calichman, who currently coaches California D-III school Claremont McKenna, earned two caps for the US.