Oscar Pareja got his first shot at the MLS SuperDraft as a head coach on Thursday, and he couldn’t be happier with how the afternoon turned out.
Pareja and the Colorado Rapids landed highly touted Connecticut forward Tony Cascio with the No. 14 pick in the draft, giving them a proven goal-scorer who was an All-American during his days with the Huskies.
“I thought honestly in the beginning that Tony was going to go higher on the list, so I was pushing all the way to see Tony just jump in our hands,” Pareja said. “Very versatile player, a player that caught my eye when I saw him. He’s very talented, intense, disciplined. His work rate is great, so I’m very happy to have this kid.”
Cascio, 21, scored five goals and added eight assists during his senior season at Connecticut, but broke onto the national scene as a junior in 2010. He scored 10 goals and added six assists that year en route to earning a NSCAA All-American First Team selection and Big East Conference Offensive Player of the Year honors.
The 6-foot, 172-pound Cascio is originally from Mesa, Ariz. He was one of nine forwards taken in the first round of one of the most offense-heavy drafts in recent memory.
“Colorado’s going to be a good place,” he said. “I’ve got people I know up there. It’s going to be a big change for me, but it’s going to be good. My sister went to school in Colorado, my girlfriend goes to school in Northern Colorado. It’s going to work out. I’m excited.”
Cascio will certainly face an uphill battle to reach the starting lineup, as Omar Cummings returns to the fold this year and Conor Casey is expected to return from an Achilles injury that shelved him for the second half of the season. The club also currently has Caleb Folan, Andre Akpan and Quincy Amarikwa on the roster.
Still, the Rapids like what they’ve seen so far in their newest prospect.
"We had a conversation with him prior to the selection obviously, and he impressed me,” Pareja said. “He’s very mature … and that was one of the things that we want from players in the Colorado Rapids. We want them to be committed to the team, to the idea, to the philosophy. We need players to get there, train well, play well, dive into this process, dive into this idea, and I saw that in Tony when I talked to him.”
Cascio was the only pick the Rapids made on Thursday.
WATCH: Tony Cascio speaks with MLSsoccer.com