Kicker: Feeling a draft
Headline: Adam Loberstein
Quincy Amarikwa and Dylan Curtis have done it all from a collegiate soccer standpoint.
After leading the UC Davis men’s soccer team to its second NCAA Tournament berth in as many years on the Division I scene, Amarikwa and Curtis were named the Big West Conference’s Offensive Player and Midfielder of the Year, respectively, en route to garnering All-American honors.
Now, they’re looking to prove they can have success all over again.
Amarikwa and Curtis have left Aggie Soccer Stadium for Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where they’re looking to impress at the adidas Major League Soccer Player Combine in preparation for Thursday’s 2009 MLS SuperDraft.
The draft begins at 11 a.m. and can be seen on ESPN2.
“They just gave us a bunch of free stuff. I’m all about free stuff,” Curtis joked shortly after arriving at the combine.
The combine, which began Saturday, splits 60 of the best players college soccer has to offer into four teams.
Two games were played per day on Saturday and Sunday, and two more contests will take place Tuesday to put the wraps on the pre-draft showcase.
“How well I do in the combine is how well I do in the draft,” Curtis said. “Basically, we’re just playing soccer. It’s a new level of talent out here, essentially the best 60 college soccer players they could find. …It’s just fun. We get to play soccer in some competitive games.“
Those games figure to be just the beginning of Curtis and Amarikwa’s MLS careers to come.
UC Davis coach Dwayne Shaffer said he’s talked to 14 of the 15 MLS teams about Curtis and Amarikwa within the past two weeks.
“The first thing a coach should know about Quincy is he’s the most competitive kid I’ve ever coached,” Shaffer said of Amarikwa, who’s ranked as the No. 4 forward in the draft by ESPN. “He’ll adapt to the pro game quickly because he’s so competitive. Coaches are going to see that kid kind of start shredding some of their players. He’s off the charts athletically compared to 99 percent of college soccer players.
“Having great players around him – that’ll only make him better than he already is. At the pro level, he’s going to have great players around him that’ll make his job easier.“
Amarikwa wasn’t available for comment.
Shaffer also expects Curtis‘ physical talents to ease his transition into the professional ranks. A 6-foot-2, 190-pounder, Curtis as ranked as the draft’s No. 6 midfielder, according to ESPN.
“Most soccer players that play on the outside generally aren’t that big,” Shaffer said of his former left-winger. “They’re more like 5-foot-10 and 160 or 170 pounds. They’re really quick, but not as big or as strong.
“Dylan’s explosive, he’s fast and he’s so big and so strong that when people try to bump him off the ball, he holds them off and gets around the corner. He’s got an exceptional amount of talent.“
Curtis said living up to his talent starts with the will to get better and desire to keep learning about the game at the MLS level.
“I know that I haven’t reached my peak yet,” he said. “I have high expectations of my abilities to play at a professional level. The amount I was able to progress over the past four years at Davis – I progressed a lot. It’s always nice to see how good you can be, and this is my opportunity to try that out.“
With the opportunity comes an adjustment period for Curtis and Amarikwa. While their talents and collegiate accomplishments speak for themselves, that doesn’t mean their transition to the professional ranks will be a seamless one.
“One of the things that happens in all professional sports,” Shaffer said, “is that these guys come out of college into the pros having had great team chemistry, great camaraderie and having developed great friendships for four to five years. It’s a lot of fun to be a college soccer player and part of a college soccer team.
“When you get to the professional level, the biggest adjustment that they’re going to have to realize is it’s a job at that point. Although it’s still a lot of fun to play and to get paid to play the greatest game in the world, it’s a job.“
Amarikwa and Curtis won’t be the only members from UC Davis‘ soccer program to get a chance to play professionally.
While they might not have been selected for the combine, midfielders Sule Anibaba and Ian Conklin and defender Jordan Vanderpoorten have been invited to MLS trials.
Ahmad Hatifie also would have gotten a look at playing professionally, but his season was cut short due to a compound fracture of his right leg.
“One thing that made those guys pros was that they’re all so competitive,” Shaffer said. “Putting those kids all on the same team at the same time – our training sessions on a daily basis were so competitive that they all made each other better.“
With Curtis, Amarikwa and Co. off to the professional ranks, the UC Davis men’s soccer program’s focus shifts to attracting and developing its next wave of recruits.
“UC Davis is a great school to go to if you want to be seen,” Curtis said. “They’ve proven themselves to be successful. Pro coaches are recognizing Davis as a team to watch.“
“Just during the season alone,” Shaffer said, “I’m aware that there were at least eight Major League Soccer teams that were at our games. That’s pretty cool. They’re coming out here to watch these guys.“
ADAM LOBERSTEIN thinks the UC Davis faithful will have at least two great reasons to start watching more Major League Soccer next season. He can be reached at email@example.com.XXX