At the age of 16 Zach Steinberger was an EU passport away from signing with English club Middlesbrough’s academy. Thursday, six years and three countries later, the midfielder was snagged by the Houston Dynamo with the number eight pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft.
Steinberger, the first of three Dynamo draft picks, lived in three different countries chasing his European dream before heading Stateside to Butler University. Now he’ll join a packed Dynamo midfield with hopes of putting all that experience to good use.
“I think watching Steinberger he caught my eye in the first game immediately,” Dynamo head coach Owen Coyle said on a conference call after the draft. “Every game he played he certainly dominated the game in the middle area of the field. He’s got a good head and a good grasp of what’s involved.”
Steinberger’s ability to control the midfield in Florida stood out to Coyle. The 22-year-old attributes his ability to do that to his experience, fitness level and team-first attitude. Though versatile, he sees himself as a box-to-box center mid, as Coyle agreed.
While his play stood out, the lessons learned from traveling at a young age also showed in the interview process. After trying out for Middlesbrough, he spent time in Slovakia as the club tried to get him a passport. After nine months there he spent a year in the youth system at Karlsrushe in Germany.
“As a kid coming from California and going to high school for a year in Florida it was definitely a culture shock,” Steinberger told the media on a conference call. “Having lived there alone …. It humbles you as a person. At the same time it was an incredible experience. I got to play with [Nemanja] Matic in his younger years and now he’s at Chelsea. Having that experience at a younger age definitely prepared me for the professional lifestyle of an athlete.”
That experience paid off as he hit the fast forward button on the maturity scale. That polish pushed him up Houston’s draft board and higher than many of the experts, and even he, thought.
“To be honest I’m just with my family and we were hoping just for anywhere in the first couple of rounds,” Steinberger said. “They’re looking for the same type of attributes I’m looking for when I look for a team. In that aspect I think we just meshed.”
The interview helped him – as well as second round Dynamo picks Oumar Ballo and Rob Lovejoy – stand out from the draft class pack.
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“The interview process, it was a new experience to me, but you can never overestimate the value and importance based on it,” Coyle said. “We want to make sure as much as the lads are talented that we’re bringing the right type of personality. All three of them showed their characters we need.”
Dynamo brass were surprised Ballo was still on the board and traded the rights to Servando Carrasco to Sporting Kansas City for the 30th pick to select the center back before drafting wide midfielder Lovejoy six spots later. Lovejoy should add depth to the left side while Ballo adds to the center back mix.
“All three of them conducted themselves really well and are very high up there in terms of watching the players there,” Coyle said of the club’s draft picks. “Every one of them showed they want to be a part of what we’re doing moving forward in the interviews we conducted and the play merited they were going to be picked.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.