WASHINGTON – If you listened to the critics during January's MLS SuperDraft, then Nick DeLeon’s selection as the seventh pick by D.C. United was certainly a puzzling one.
He came to the Combine out of the University of Louisville overweight, under-motivated and looking like anything but a top selection.
Looks like DeLeon is having the last laugh.
In just eight games this season, the midfielder has amassed three goals and three assists, while filling the void left early in the season by Andy Najar and Chris Pontius. His play has been integral to D.C.'s early success this season, and after a couple of good games to start his professional career, there’s no sign his performances will drop off.
DeLeon is already closing in on one United record that few gave him a chance to set on draft day. With three goals in MLS play this season, he is just two goals behind the record of five goals for a United rookie, set by Santino Quaranta (2001), Freddy Adu (2004) and Andy Najar (2010). With 26 games remaining, few would now question his ability to break that record.
“Finishes are just going in [right now],” DeLeon told MLSsoccer.com. “You have streaks like that; it’s just part of the game. But what keeps me going every day is coming into training, and putting in extra work, and working hard.”
DeLeon’s latest goal came in club’s 4-1 win over the New York Red Bulls last Sunday. Already leading by two goals, DeLeon was on the receiving end of a Dwayne De Rosario pass in the box, and the 21-year-old fired a shot that deflected off of RBNY defender Markus Holgersson and past goalkeeper Ryan Meara.
“I’ve got to give credit to [De Rosario] on that one,” DeLeon said. “I was just in the right place at the right time. He made a good play on the defender, and I just happened to be at the right spot.”
But it was no accident that DeLeon was in the perfect spot to receive the pass from De Rosario to finish his chance. DeLeon has already developed a knack for finding the right place at the right time, and that anticipation has led to several goals for United this season already.
“The good thing about Nick is that he is humble, but he has a confidence about him that I really like,” De Rosario told MLSsoccer.com. “He knows what he is good at, and while he is still developing and learning the game, what a way to start off your career. We are going to keep giving him confidence, but keep him grounded as well.”
WATCH: DeLeon beats Meara for third goal of 2012