FC Cincinnati selected UCLA freshman central midfielder Frankie Amaya as its first-ever MLS SuperDraft pick.
CHICAGO — When FC Cincinnati took its timeout before announcing the first overall MLS SuperDraft pick, the nerves continued for Frankie Amaya.
“With that timeout with time expired already, I wanted a name,” Amaya said after he became the club’s first-ever SuperDraft pick Friday at McCormick Place. “Whoever it was — thankfully it’s me — I wanted to hear a name called.”
It took eight minutes, but in the end, MLS commissioner Don Garber announced Amaya as the first overall selection.
Los Angeles FC general manager John Thorrington visited FC Cincinnati’s table during the four minutes allotted for its first pick, but coach Alan Koch and club president and general manager Jeff Berding declined to comment on any offers exchanged. In the days leading up to Friday’s draft, the club had “hundreds” of offers, Berding said.
“In the end, we decided to keep him (Amaya) because we believe in him,” Koch said.
“He’s still a young player of course. But I think he’s already shown in a short amount of time the talent that he has. We’re excited to work with him and see how far we can push him. He has certainly not reached his ceiling by any means.”
Later in the first round, FC Cincinnati selected Wake Forest defender Logan Gdula with the 13th pick.
“We love both these guys,” Berding said. “This is a draft full of terrific players, but we really felt great about both in terms of where they are today and what their future can be. For a club that’s just starting out in MLS to have two guys that are terrific players, high character guys that have a very high ceiling in terms of what they can become someday, is very exciting for our owners, for our fans and everyone in our organization.”
Then the club traded the 16th and 25th picks to New York Red Bulls for $100,000 of general allocation money.
MLS signed Amaya — a freshman central midfielder from UCLA — to a Generation Adidas deal, a mechanism allowing top domestic college underclassmen and youth national team players selected by MLS to enter the SuperDraft. Because he’s already under MLS contract, Amaya’s salary will not count toward FC Cincinnati’s budget.
Amaya was a United States Youth National Team player and started for the U.S. U-20 side that beat Mexico 2-0 to win the Concacaf championship and was the highest-rated prospect available, according to Goal.
“He’s a guy who’s passionate, who’s driven, and he’s willing to work to help achieve the goals of himself and his family,” Koch said. “He fits the culture on our team and our club. I think we can get a lot out of him.”
Amaya said he’ll have to work to fit into FC Cincinnati’s system. Wherever Koch asks him to fill in, he’s up for the challenge.
“I’ve never really believed in talent,” Amaya said. “I’ve worked hard my whole life. Without all this hard work, I wouldn’t be where I am right now. Nobody in this room would know who I am.”
Gdula gave an emotional speech at the podium after the selection, saying “we weren’t supposed to be here.”
In interviews, Gdula credited his mother, who had him at 18, dropped out of college and worked three jobs to help him play soccer.
“She just did everything for me to make sure I became successful and she just worked her hardest and never gave up on me,” Gdula said.
Gdula had two goals and 12 assists in his last two seasons at Wake Forest. Noting FC Cincinnati’s offseason acquisitions, Gdula said he’d be a good fit on the pitch.
“I think the type of fullbacks they brought in — Greg Garza, Alvas Powell — I definitely see where they’re going with that,” he said. “I think my style of play does fit perfectly into what they’re trying to do.”
The thought of joining an expansion team appeals to Gdula.
“I think it’s intriguing,” he said. “I like making history. I like being a part of history.”
In the second round, FC Cincinnati picked Notre Dame midfielder Tommy McCabe (29th overall), Michigan State goalkeeper Jimmy Hague (30th overall) and Notre Dame goalkeeper and German native Ben Lundt (37th overall).
The third and fourth rounds will be conducted via teleconference on Monday. FC Cincinnati has picks 49 and 61 in the third round and pick 85 in the final round.