BALTIMORE – D.C. United firmed up their defensive corps in the MLS SuperDraft on Thursday, adding Akron phenom Perry Kitchen and two other prospects to new head coach Ben Olsen’s group.
Kitchen, the defender/midfielder who helped the Zips to their first-ever NCAA title last fall, is a native of Indianapolis and can play at both center back, where he has played at the international level, or as a defensive midfielder, his spot in the college ranks.
He’s also a member of the US U-20 team.
“I understand that it’s a great fan base,” Kitchen said. “I know the coaches, they seem great, so I’m very excited, can’t wait.”
He joins D.C. after spending one season playing under Caleb Porter at Akron, who had seven players drafted on Thursday. Kitchen is a tenacious ball winner who possesses outstanding leadership qualities.
He developed at the U.S. Soccer residency camp in Florida, and the little things he does on the field impressed Olsen.
“Kitchen has a lot of those intangibles that people keep talking about,” Olsen said. “He’s a winner, he’s a tough kid, he is gritty. He’s a fighter, and I want that.”
D.C. United’s second round pick was Chris Korb, another Akron product and a natural right back who played on the left in college. He mostly stayed at home along the back line in college, but occasionally showed the ability to come forward and contribute to the attack when needed.
“He’s a hard-nosed defender who seems to enjoy defending, and sometimes you need those guys who are concerned with winning battles,” Olsen said.
Both players drew enthusiastic praise from their former coach Porter, who was in attendance at Thursday’s draft.
“[Kitchen]’s a winner, and that’s a term thrown around a lot, but he truly is a guy that makes everyone around him better because he wants to win,” he said. “D.C.’s going to love Chris Korb. He’s one of our most athletic guys, people don’t realize that. He is a very good one-v-one defender, extremely competitive, and another one who hates to lose.”
“D.C.’s got our two most competitive guys in Perry and Chris,” Porter added.
Late in the third round, D.C. sent two first round picks in the Supplemental Draft to the LA Galaxy for the 50th overall pick, used to pick goalkeeper Joe Willis out of the University of Denver. He’ll compete for the third goalkeeper spot on the roster behind Bill Hamid and Steve Cronin.
Olsen recognizes that this his club is still a work in process, and a piece or two could still be brought in – particularly up front.
“We’re looking for that piece that we still potentially need, up top,” he said. “We want to build something with guys that are going to be here, have the right personalities, right skill set, to stay here and continue to start build something special at D.C. United again.”