Expansion clubs take different routes
Major League Soccer's two newest teams took significantly different approaches to their first selections in their first SuperDraft on Friday, as Real Salt Lake stayed with the theme of youthful first picks, while CD Chivas USA went with little history.
Real Salt Lake selected 16-year-old wunderkind Nikolas Besagno with the first overall pick of 2005, as he became the second-youngest draftee in league history, surpassed only by last year's top pick, then 14-year-old phenom Freddy Adu.
Chivas USA then followed with former University of South Carolina goalkeeper Brad Guzan with the second overall pick, making his the highest-drafted goalkeeper in MLS history, reflecting the immense potential that has earned him widespread acclaim as the top 'keeper available this year.
Blessed with a useful blend of size and speed, the 6-foot, 175-pound Besagno has bossed the midfield for the U-17 U.S. national team since April, and was called up to the U-20 squad in November.
"I sit in the middle -- I'm a ballwinner," said Besagno. "I get in for tackles, win balls in the air and bring it down."
He expects to be worked into Salt Lake's plans gradually, with Major League Soccer's new reserve league his likely home in 2005.
"I'm hoping just to get in and play well with the reserve team," Besagno said. "My first season I'm not going to be playing much; I'm still going to be with the under-17s until September or October. I just want to get my first season under me, and hopefully in my second season maybe get a starting position, get some games, some playing time."
The selection reunites the defensive midfielder with his former youth national coach John Ellinger, now in charge at Real, something the youngster said will ease his transition into the professional ranks.
"Definitely. I know him, I know how he coaches. He knows me, my skills, what I'm good at. I think it's awesome that I get to play with him," Besagno said.
For his part, Guzan confessed his elation to be selected so early in the proceedings.
"I had heard some rumors of this and that, but it was a shock," he said. "Until you hear your name up there, you don't really believe it 100 percent. So it was a little bit of a shock, but I'm very excited."
The former Gamecocks netminder may have to pay his dues this season, with Chivas USA apparently planning to bring in an experienced 'keeper from their home club in Mexico, but he's nonetheless eager to prove himself.
"I know that they have a goalkeeper there right now, so hopefully I can go in and just play how I know how to play and see what happens," Guzan said. "Nothing is going to be given to me, and I understand that. This is a business, and I'm going to have to go in and work for everything that I get, and hopefully it will all work out."
Guzan is braced for the always-challenging transition from the college level into the pros, a process that is typically even more difficult for goalkeepers. There's also the small matter of learning a new language.
"I think just the fact of going into the professional ranks, and adapting to that whole lifestyle, will be difficult, at least for the first year," says Guzan. "Going to a team like Chivas, I speak very, very, very little Spanish, so that's going to be a No. 1 priority.
"As soon as I get back home, I'm going to have to start learning some Spanish. It will be difficult at first, but I think everything will work out just fine."
Charles Boehm is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.