PHILADELPHIA — Back in 2008, the University of Maryland recruited center back Kyle Venter as a replacement for Omar Gonzalez, who would turn pro just months later. Six years later, the LA Galaxy did the same thing in Thursday's SuperDraft.
With their lone pick of the first two rounds, the Galaxy took the former New Mexico stalwart and defensive depth was the primary motivation with Gonzalez expected to be away in Brazil this summer.
"With Omar likely playing in a World Cup, we think we need to have some cover at the centerback position," LA manager Bruce Arena said. "So we're hopeful he's going to fit in. There's certainly going to be competition."
But don't call the 6-foot-3 Venter the "left-footed Gonzalez." Although he is also known for his dominance in the air, he doesn't care much for the comparisons.
"I think everybody is their own player and Omar has done some unbelievable things and made a name for himself in this league," Venter said. "I'm going to use him as a resource with his experience. I can't wait to get out there."
The Galaxy coaching staff had some first-hand knowledge of Venter's skill set. Kenny Arena, a Galaxy assistant under his father and former head coach at Florida International University, coached against Venter in a 2-1 loss at New Mexico in October. It was the defender's header that led to the OT game-winner for the Lobos.
"He's physically gifted at 6-foot-3, about 190 pounds," Arena said. "He's a left-footed center back, which is rare. He's very good in the air and we think he has a lot of promise. We didn't think he was going to be available at the No. 23 spot. So we were really pleased when we were getting around to picks 17, 18, 19 and we knew there was a possibility of getting him. And we jumped on that."
Venter is well aware what Arena and the Galaxy have done for other defenders out of college like Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza and emerging center back Kofi Opare, who figured in matches late last year. He hopes to be next in that line.
"The first message from [Arena] is just that he thinks I'm going to fit in well and that's really encouraging to hear," Venter said. "That means I can come in, be myself and work hard and be a very good teammate.
"If you get into the right system like I believe I am, then you can only get better and learn from the guys he's already cultivated and from him as well. It's going to be an unbelievable experience."