The Akron Zips were the story of college soccer in 2010. And when the Generation adidas signings were announced last week – including a record five Zips – it was a testament to the talent of the team.
But one player not included in that Generation adidas group could make just as much of an impact at the next level: midfielder Anthony Ampaipitakwong. The 22-year-old ended his college career on top as part of that NCAA College Cup-winning side.
But that achievement is already a distant memory for Ampaipitakwong, who is now focused solely on the MLS Combine that starts Saturday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“I’m taking the combine as the next step after college and the combine is my first [time] playing outside of college,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “I’m trying to focus on what I do as a soccer player and show myself well on the field and also off the field.”
After taking a week off in the wake of the mid-December win over Louisville, Ampaipitawkong met up with some of the other Zips who will be participating in the MLS Combine. Most of the much-celebrated class worked out together before the holiday season, staying in shape and playing indoor soccer in Akron.
One of the leaders and team captains of the 2010 national champions, Ampaipitakwong spent his four years at Akron at the heart of the Zips attack, usually playing from an attacking midfield spot. A technically-gifted player, he was behind the majority of Akron’s offensive movements during his four-year career.
Listed at 5-foot-8, 160 pounds, one of the knocks on Ampaipitakwong’s ability to succeed in MLS is his slight stature. That sort of criticism is nothing new to him.
[inline_node:319343]“Of course I’ve always heard that, even when I was in high school playing PDL at a young age,” he said. “It’s just a matter of hard work and knowing how to get rid of the ball fast and playing well with the people around you.”
Adjusting and being able to move the ball at the next level will be paramount for the midfielder’s success in MLS, and so could a team's system. A versatile midfielder able play out wide, deep, or in an advanced role, Ampaipitakwong could provide a creative option to a coach in need of a spark.
Regardless of the physical challenge, Ampaipitakwong is looking forward to the prospect of playing in a league he has long watched as a spectator. As a kid in Dallas, he grew up going to matches, and playing in MLS is a dream of his.
“I’ve watched MLS since I was little,” Ampaipitakwong said. “I was in Dallas and went to Dallas Burn games. I have numerous friends in MLS, and it’s [a league] I’ve always wanted to play in. … I’ve played in America all my life and [soccer] is something I want to help grow in the States.”
His coach at Akron, Caleb Porter, was enthusiastic in his praise for his former captain, both as a player and a person.
“He’s obviously a creative player, I think one of the most creative players coming out of college,” Porter told MLSsoccer.com. “If you’re a pro coach looking for a creative player that can bring a little bit of playmaking to the team, he’s got to be one of the top prospects.
“He’s a great kid, a very coachable kid, he’s confident, but he’s a very humble, well-grounded kid,” continued Porter. “He’s helped our team win, and I think pro coaches would want someone that would have that winning fiber.”
If the past is any indication, players who mature and develop under Porter’s tutelage are not only prepared to make an MLS roster, but also make an impact as well. Three Akron players – Ben Zemanski, Blair Gavin and Teal Bunbury – all successfully made the transition last year, and Ampaipitakwong is ready to join them on the field in 2011.
“He’s got a bright future,” Porter said. “I think he’s going to do very well.”