The past three MLS drafts have all seen a handful of Akron Zips successfully make the jump from Caleb Porter’s now-storied program to the professional level.
At this year’s draft, Akron stole the headlines as all seven draft-eligible players from the NCAA championship-winning team were snapped up. Just two months later, with the 2011 MLS season getting under way, all are on their respective rosters while some could make their professional debuts this weekend.
Of the seven, which will be the best this year? Here’s a look at where each Zip landed and what to expect from them this season.
DF Perry Kitchen, D.C. United
For some, Kitchen was the consensus No. 1 overall SuperDraft pick. It came, then, as a delight to DC that he slipped to them at the third spot, and it’s expected that the fiery 19-year-old will start Saturday night against Columbus.
He’ll need to quickly adjust to increased speed and size of the professional level, but if his previous track record is any indication, he’ll be able to cope early on.
MF/F Darlington Nagbe, Portland Timbers
Porter reserved his highest praise at the draft for Nagbe, the 2010 Hermann Trophy winner. And while Nagbe’s season has already been hampered by sports hernia surgery, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to contribute once he gets on the field for Portland.
Depending on his health, Nagbe seems the likeliest Zip to contend for Rookie of the Year.
[inline_node:330531]DF Zarek Valentin, Chivas USA
Another team going through a rebuilding phase, Chivas USA have an option on the right side with Valentin.
Valentin may be a bit rawer than some of his other colleagues, but he has the opportunity to learn from experienced defenders like Jimmy Conrad and Heath Pearce, who will help him adjustment to the pros and enjoy some success on the field for the Goats.
MF Michael Nanchoff, Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Injuries were a problem for Nanchoff in college, and they’ve continued, as he’s still recovering from a knock picked up prior to the MLS combine. According to reports, he could miss the first couple months of the season.
Needless to say, then, that Nanchoff’s rookie campaign will be dictated by his ability to stay healthy and maintain the required fitness level, though he’ll certainly add an attacking dimension with that left foot of his when on the field.
MF Anthony Ampaipitakwong, San Jose Earthquakes
Only one of two seniors in this year’s draft class, the orchestrator of Akron’s offense for the past four years slipped all the way to the second round. In fact, the attacking mid was the last of the seven picked due to a lackluster Combine performance and concerns over his size.
In order to succeed in MLS, Ampaipitakwong has to find the right system for him, and how he fits in with San Jose will dictate his impact on the team. He’ll likely see more time with the reserves at the start of the season.
DF Chris Korb, D.C. United
The other Zip who wasn’t a Generation adidas member, Korb played out of position at left back in his three years at Akron. He’ll serve as a backup to expected starter Jed Zayner and should be limited to a reserve spot.
Korb, though, is not one to sit idly on the bench and will look to try and get on the field any way he can.
DF Kofi Sarkodie, Houston Dynamo
Perhaps the most intriguing prospect of the bunch, Sarkodie made a name for himself in the college ranks thanks to his attacking prowess from the right back.
Sarkodie must be able to accept more defensive responsibilities, but if he can do that early on, he certainly will be a consistent contributor in Houston.