COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Six months ago, Colorado Rapids rookie Dillon Powers was strolling the campus of the University of Notre Dame, soaking in the final few months of his senior year of college.
On Tuesday, the 22-year-old was being lauded for his uncanny maturity by his new head coach.
Powers has garnered plenty of attention in his first two months in professional soccer for not only starting every game of the Rapids’ surprising 4-4-3 start, but in particular for the way the 11th overall pick of this year’s SuperDraft carries himself, both on and off the field.
“Every game is teaching him something else and the best part with Dillon is he’s like a sponge,” head coach Oscar Pareja said of Powers on Tuesday. “He’s growing and he understands it’s not quite there yet and he needs to keep improving, and that’s encouraging for the coach.
“I see in him personality. I see in him respect for the game. I see in him accountability all the time despite [that] he’s a young kid. He feels like a veteran that you can count on, and I like that.”
The son of a well-known Dallas-area soccer coach, Powers has a long track record of displaying maturity beyond his age. From serving as team captain for both his junior and senior seasons to boasting a 3.417 GPA at Notre Dame, Powers did it all at the collegiate level, both on and off the field.
But the challenges were certainly presented for the Plano High School graduate when he first arrived in Colorado. Asked to step into the starting lineup from day one due to injuries, Powers has exceeded expectations in his first year on the job, despite his lack of experience and being asked to play a slightly different position than he’s accustomed to.
Powers has been asked to play in more of an attacking role than he first anticipated coming into the year. He figured he would play more of a central midfield role, as he did for the majority of his time at Notre Dame, but when attacking midfielder Martín Rivero went down with a broken foot in late January, Powers was pushed forward into Rivero’s spot.
It's been a perfect fit. The former US U-18 and U-20 international has slid in perfectly into the attacking side of the midfield, having already scored two goals and assisted on another so far this season (the Rapids have 10 goals as a team).
“I definitely feel like one of my roles is to contribute to the attack and to help facilitate things,” said Powers, who says he frequently consults with veteran midfielder Pablo Mastroeni for tips and pointers. “I know we have Martín back it makes me a little more withdrawn. It’s nice to connect with him, get forward and get back.”
Some down time could soon be coming for Powers – Pareja said on Tuesday that he’s seriously contemplating resting Powers, amongst others, to avoid fatigue later on in the year – but in the meantime, the rookie plans on continuing to absorb lessons from his coach, just as Pareja wants.
“I pride myself with my possession, but I still think it can still be better,” Powers said. “I think my speed of play, especially on the ball right when I get on it, and my movement off the ball [can be improved]. And Oscar’s really trying to push me to do that. I think that’s his biggest thing [for me] is to be more dynamic, especially on the ball.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.