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Buy local: Local players draw MLS eyes in draft

Featured image courtesy of Reading United A.C.

When Major League Soccer teams make their draft picks in Thursday’s amateur draft, several players with local ties are sure to go off the board. You may not have three former Reading United players go off the board in the first round, as happened last year when that burgeoning soccer factory churned out C.J. Sapong, Zarek Valentin and Corey Hertzog, but the Philly area will definitely be represented.

With that in mind, here’s a look at some of those who are in play for the draft. (Sure enough, most have played for Reading United.)

Andrew Wenger, defender, Duke

The Hermann Trophy winner and 1st team All-American is projected as a top-five pick, with most predicting him to go in the top three. Wenger hails from Lilitz, Pa., which is out near Lancaster, and has played for nearby Reading United in the USL PDL. He has played forward, midfield and defense for Duke, and he’s played well at each. Many are projecting him as a defensive midfielder or center back, but honestly, we won’t know where he plays until we know what team he’s on.

Matt Hedges, defender, North Carolina

At 6-4, Hedges is a near-prototypical center back, and some project the Reading United product as a top 10 pick. His aerial game helped produce six goals as a senior. Hedges spent his first three years at Butler in his hometown after being largely overlooked coming out of high school. He transferred to North Carolina for his senior year and earned 1st team All-American honors for the national champs in 2011.  After he played 10 games for Reading United in 2011, Philadelphia Union should be quite familiar with him, and the Union’s lack of depth at center back and ties to Reading make Hedges a popular projected draft pick for the Union.

Evans Frimpong (Courtesy of University of Delaware)

Evans Frimpong, midfielder, Delaware

Frimpong scored 12 goals and handed out 5 assists to become the Colonial Athletic Association’s player of the year in 2011. The 2nd team All-American hails from Accra, Ghana, and, much like Hedges, he came out of nowhere, impressing at an NAIA school in Texas before transferring to Delaware, where he was the first Blue Hen in 27 years to be named an All-American. He appeared in four games for Reading United in 2011 as well. Some mock drafts have him as a borderline draft prospect, but he’s at the MLS Combine and getting a legitimate chance to show scouts there what he can do.

Christian Barreiro, midfielder, Penn

Another Reading United product, this two-time first-team All-Ivy Leaguer led Reading United in 2011 with 7 assists and added 4 goals, playing more minutes than any other Reading outfield player. He followed it up by leading Penn in goals (7) and assists (7) his senior year. As a youth player, he passed on youth squad offers from English club Middlesbrough and Scottish giants Celtic. Barreiro was also academic all-conference, which is saying something when your conference is the Ivy League. At just 5-7, he likely projects as a midfielder at the next level, but he’ll have to impress at the MLS Combine to show a team he’s worth drafting. Unfortunately, the Ivy League doesn’t have the rep of the ACC when it comes to college soccer.

Brian Ownby, forward, Virginia

Ownby has been a top player for four years at Virginia, but injuries have slowed him down along the way. His local ties are, once again, Reading United, for whom he scored 4 goals and handed out 3 assists in just 4 games in 2011. He scored five times for Virginia in 19 games and netted 20 times over four years.

Brian Holt, goalkeeper, Creighton

Holt set an NCAA record with a miniscule 0.207 goals against average in 2011, and he was one of just six USL PDL players to play every minute for his team in 2011. Still, the Reading United alum wasn’t invited to the MLS Combine and probably won’t get a sniff in the draft due to his height, or lack thereof: At just 5-8, he’s considered far too small to play goalkeeper professionally. Nonetheless, don’t be surprised if someone like Harrisburg takes a flyer on him. Whatever his size, he can play the game.

Antoine Hoppenot, forward, Princeton

Hoppenot was Ivy League Player of the Year and second-team All-American in 2010, but his goal tally dropped from 9 and 10 the previous two years to just 4 in 2011. Still, he made all-conference and earned an invitation to the MLS Combine. At 5-8, he may project as a midfielder if he makes it to the pros, but most mock drafts don’t include him. This week is a chance to impress.

Eric Schoenle (Courtesy of The Daily Athenium)

Eric Schoenle, defender, West Virginia

The Yardley, Pa. native was a third-team All-American in 2011, and this fall, he was a popular projected first round MLS pick because of his excellent technical ability. Then apparently someone soured on his string bean physique (listed at 6-2, 147), and he began to drop off the radar. He isn’t at the MLS Combine now, and he doesn’t appear on most mock draft lists. If he goes undrafted, don’t be surprised if the Union become a possible landing spot, with his ties to the region and his time spent playing for Reading United in 2010. He played for Reading in their friendly against the Union that year, but unfortunately, he landed on the score sheet with an own goal. Still, he didn’t make All-American for nothing, and professional sports are full of players who may not have the measurables on paper but perform on the field when it matters.

Billy Schuler, forward, North Carolina

The Allentown, N.J., native and Hermann Trophy finalist has already signed with Norwegian club Hammarby, where he’ll play for American coach Gregg Berhalter, but an MLS club could still draft him to obtain his domestic rights if he ever heads stateside. Don’t expect it, but don’t be surprised if it happens either. Like many others on this list, he’s also played for Reading United, which means the Union should be a bit familiar with him.


  1. Schoenle is a junior if I’m not mistaken. He was a GA prospect but fell off of that radar – I think he has another year in school yet and isn’t eligible.

    Kirk Urso DM from UNC is another with Reading United ties that will likely be a late first or early second rounder. Some project as early as 18-20, others expect him to be around when we pick again at 32.

    Watch out for Raymon Gaddis, a Reading United alum who plays as a right fullback. WVU grad was not invited to the combine but is draft eligible – his speed makes him a likely gamble pick according to some writers – occassionally compared to Marvell Wynne.

    Given when the Union are currently drafting (barring trades) I don’t see us having a shot or chasing most of these guys. Frimpong, if he qualifies as a domestic player, and Barrerio are guys I could see the U taking a shot at with our 2nd 2 (#35) and/or our first supplemental pick.

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