Fountain of Youth: RSL takes Besagno
Real Salt Lake selected U.S. youth national team standout Nikolas Besagno with the top pick in Friday's MLS SuperDraft, making him the second youngest player ever drafted after last year's top pick, D.C. United's Freddy Adu.
In Salt Lake City, 16-year-old Besagno will be reunited with RSL head coach John Ellinger, the man who invited him to U.S. Soccer's Under-17 Residency Program and encouraged him to go pro this year. Besagno joined the residency program in April when Ellinger was in charge and made 10 starts in 11 international appearances, seeing time in 20 matches overall for the U-17s in 2004.
Besagno, who turned 16 in November, also got a shot with the Under-20 national team in 2004, playing 89 minutes in a 2-1 win over Mexico six days after his 16th birthday.
"It's amazing. It's awesome. It's something that every American player dreams about, going into Major League Soccer, and it's something that it is now happening to me," Besagno said. "I'm really excited to play for John Ellinger and Real Salt Lake. Playing with Clint Mathis and Jason Kreis and Andy Williams and all the rest of the guys will be awesome. Playing for the U.S. National Team under Ellinger was great and I can't wait to be reunited with him."
Unlike last year, there was no consensus top pick heading into Friday's draft. Ellinger had narrowed his list down to four players on Wednesday, citing Besagno, Indiana University midfielder Danny O'Rourke, University of Virginia defender Hunter Freeman and Bradley University midfielder Luke Kreamalmayer as possible No. 1 selections.
Though not every MLS coach was sold on Besagno's performance at the adidas MLS Player Combine earlier in the week, Ellinger had a pre-existing relationship with Besagno and knowledge of the Washington state native's ability. That was enough for Ellinger to make the defensive midfielder his top choice.
"After watching Nik perform during the last eight months at the U.S. Under-17 Residency Program, I saw on a daily basis that he is a great young talent," Ellinger said. "As an organization we feel confident that he possesses the ability to be a star in this league."
The addition of Besagno is another step in the formation of what is, on paper, an impressive RSL roster. Already, the club's strike force includes all-time MLS leading scorer Jason Kreis and one of the best strikers in the U.S. national team pool in Clint Mathis.
The midfield features playmaker Andy Williams, talented Costa Rican international Pablo Brenes and now Besagno, who fills a hole in the defensive midfield. At the back, RSL have veteran defenders Evan Whitfield and Rusty Pierce playing in front of starting goalkeeper D.J. Countess.
RSL has two more selections in Friday's draft -- the 13th overall pick (second round) and the 37th overall selection (fourth round).
Jason Halpin is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.
|YRS-DAYS||PLAYER, CLUB||BIRTHDATE||DRAFT DATE|
|14-228||Freddy Adu, D.C. United||6/02/1989||1/16/2004|
|16-060||Nikolas Besagno, Real Salt Lake||11/15/1988||1/14/2005|
|16-084||Eddie Gaven, MetroStars||10/25/1986||1/17/2003|
|16-114||Santino Quaranta, D.C. United||10/14/1984||2/05/2001|
|16-169||Michael Bradley, MetroStars||7/31/1987||1/16/2004|
|16-218||Craig Capano, Chicago Fire||7/07/1985||2/10/2002|
|16-255||Bobby Convey, D.C. United||5/27/1983||2/06/2000|
|16-311||Eddie Johnson, Dallas Burn||3/31/1984||2/05/2001|