When the New York Red Bulls selected midfielder Ian Christianson with the 22nd pick in Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft, they didn’t just get a player who impressed them with his on-field qualities during his time with Georgetown – they also got a player whose off-field persona helped convince them he was their guy.
The Red Bulls opted to go for the 21-year-old defensive midfielder over the other players they had on their short list in the second round because of how impressed they were with the interview they conducted with him during the MLS Player Combine in South Florida earlier in the week.
Christianson sold the Red Bulls with his candidness on a series of questions, including one that asked him how he would cope with possibly not playing in 2013 as the club looks to develop him.
“He was more convincing than the other people, let’s put it that way, in his honesty that he really wouldn’t have a problem,” Red Bulls interim head coach Mike Petke (above) told reporters in Indianapolis on Thursday. “But it goes beyond that as well. Just getting to know him on tell-us-about-your-family type questions, just the way he answered, how forthcoming he was. You could tell he comes from a strong family.”
The 5-foot-11, 155-pound Christianson’s story also impressed the Red Bulls coaching staff, which currently comprises Petke, technical director Ricardo Campos, head of scouting Cris da Silva and performance analyst David Lee.
Christianson, who made 26 starts in 2012 for a Georgetown team that lost in the College Cup final, had previously spent two seasons with the Chicago Fire’s USSF Development Academy squad. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native was a captain during both of his years with the Fire team, as well as during all of his seven years with the Cedar Rapids Soccer Association.
Clearly, Christianson is capable of adapting quickly.
“He’s been around the country,” said Petke. “He went to Chicago to play in their system when he was a high school kid. He moved across [the] country to Georgetown, so he doesn’t need the comfort of being home with his parents.
“He’s comfortable leaving home and going far away, so that was important for us to know: that he’s not going to get lost in a big city. Personality-wise, he passed with flying colors.”
Christianson’s off-field personality was just part of the reason the Red Bulls took him. He also provides depth a to a New York team in desperate need of some able bodies in the midfield (the club had just four natural midfielders on their roster prior to drafting Christianson) and his “body type” and upside were too tempting to pass up on.
“He exactly fits the bill of what we need and he fits the bill as well as someone we can develop into a future [player],” said Petke. “We’re very short behind Dax McCarty. I think he needs to learn a little bit, we need to bring him along nicely and he could be one for the future for us.”
As for what is one of the first things on the agenda for Christianson when he joins the Red Bulls for preseason? Developing more of an edge, at least in his game.
“You guys remember me when I played, I wasn’t very nice,” said Petke. “I’m going to rub off as much of that on him and hopefully we can have a happy median between his very nice upbringing and the Mike Petke style.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com