2016 SuperDraft

Breaking down the SuperDraft experience: Crew SC players offer advice to this year’s prospects

Justin Meram CLBvORL 5-30-15

No matter the city or year, the MLS SuperDraft presented by adidas is a life-changing experience for young soccer players all over the U.S., looking to start their professional careers. This year’s will be held in Baltimore, Maryland on Thursday, January 14.

Based on the results of the 2015 season and previous trades, Columbus Crew SC heads to the event with four picks in the first two rounds. With almost half the Black & Gold’s current roster starting their MLS careers through the SuperDraft, we caught up with a few of the guys on their draft day experiences and to solicit some advice for this year’s prospects.

“My experience was fun,” midfielder Ethan Finlay says. “You get to the draft and it’s obviously a really exciting time—not only for you—but for your family. […] Just take it all in and realize that wherever you go, your life is going to change, and be ready for it.”

For Finlay, fellow midfielder Justin Meram and recent Crew SC acquisition, defender Corey Ashe, the draft experience started with the adidas MLS Player Combine.

“The Combine has its moments of fear and excitement,” Meram says. “There’s a moment in your life during that week that is kind of do or die. You hope you do well and get picked as high as possible and then get the biggest contract you’ve earned.”

Although Meram doesn’t put much weight on his performance at the Combine, he says showing glimpses of his talents at the event, coupled with his college career at the University of Michigan, may have reassured coaches in Columbus of his abilities.

Following Finlay’s Combine performance, he made it a goal to be drafted in the top 10. When Chicago selected Austin Berry at ninth, the right winger says he felt unsure. But a nod from his agent right before MLS Commissioner Don Garber walked up to the podium, let Finlay know “that this was it.”

“It’s not really until you get your name called that the emotion really sets in,” he says. “I was super excited; I was there with my family. It was a great moment for them obviously to share with me since they’d been on this journey with me for a long time too.”

That journey may be different for each player, but having their names called to begin their next escapade is life-changing for everyone.

“That’s the moment in your life that you wait for,” Meram says. “As a kid, you’re waiting to be a professional. I stumbled during my speech; I still get goose bumps thinking about it and obviously it was the start of a professional career. I couldn’t have been happier when I was up on that podium, and relieved as well.”

Ashe says he shared that wave of relief, but also expresses how rewarding that moment was. Attending the 2007 MLS SuperDraft with his dad in Indianapolis, he was selected 26th overall by the Houston Dynamo.

“It felt good,” he says. “I’ve devoted my entire life to soccer and to see that it finally paid off was a great experience. I wasn’t sure if my name was going to be called, so when they called it, I was excited, my dad was excited and I was just like, ‘We’re on to the next step.’ I’ve always had ambitions of playing professionally and to hear my name called was a dream come true.”

With only 81 picks in the four rounds of the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, that dream doesn’t come true for everyone. The SuperDraft experience can be stressful and disappointing. Regardless of the outcome, players should enjoy it, Ashe says.  

“It goes by fast and regardless of the team or when you’re selected number-wise—that doesn’t necessarily mean anything,” he says. “Enjoy it and don’t put too much emphasis on the number or the round in which you were drafted.”

At the draft, everything can change, as teams trade picks. Finlay advises players heading into this years’ draft to keep an open mind.

“For guys to think that they are either going to A or B, be aware that C is always an option,” he says. “Have an open mind. That kind of mindset is important because anything can happen.”

With a strong work ethic and positive mindset, Finlay has proven already that anything can happen. The speedy winger has gone from a tough first two seasons with Crew SC to receiving a call-up to the U.S. Men’s National Team.

“Take it in strides,” he says. “There’s going to be ups and downs, or you might not think you’re going to the place where you could have the most success or where you wanted to go, but I think you always have to realize how lucky you are to play a sport.”

And if young prospects are anything like Meram, they’ll just sit back, relax and soak up the entire SuperDraft experience.

“Embrace it all, enjoy it and definitely be excited for the draft because that’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

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