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Forwards popular at MLS Draft

Jan. 17, 2003 at 6:51 PM   |   Comments

KANSAS CITY, Mo., Jan. 17 (UPI) -- General managers went after forwards, but did little wheeling and dealing Friday at the 2003 MLS Draft.

D.C. United was unable to pull off a proposed blockbuster trade with the Dallas Burn for Bolivian midfielder Vaca, and instead held the pick and took the consensus No. 1 player available -- attacker Alecko Eskandarian.

Eskandarian, the 2002 MAC Hermann award winner as the best player in college soccer and a member of the Olympic team, scored a single-season record 25 goals for Virginia.

"To be the first overall selection is a tremendous honor," Eskandarian said. "I'm an East Coast guy, but I understand that this is professional soccer and you've got to prove yourself wherever you go. I can't wait to start my professional career."

United had hoped right up to the wire to be able to trade the pick for the Burn midfielder, but Dallas would not deal. Instead, United gets a top attacker that slots in with newly acquired national team star Earnie Stewart and 19-year-old phenom Santino Quaranta.

The MetroStars followed by taking U-20 standout Ricardo Clark, who has impressed with his hard tackling and vision this week at the MLS Combine.

"I just want to prove I can play, I hope to be able to contribute fully to New York," Clarke said.

The 19-year-old forward is considered the anchor of the team, moving from defensive midfield to up top with relative ease.

Picking third, the Chicago Fire selected Nate Jacqua, a Project-40 player out of the University of Portland. The forward was among the Pilots' all-time top ten in points and assists and looks to replace Josh Wolff, who was traded to Dallas for the pick.

New York then took striker Mike Magee, 18, the U-20 team's leading scorer in 2002, after trading Brad Davis to Dallas for the fourth pick.

United, picking fifth, took P-40 defender David Stokes as a hedge in the back after learning that Ivan McKinley would be out for the year after rupturing his Achilles tendon in a pickup game last week. The 20-year-old was the defensive MVP of North Carolina's title run in 2001.

The San Jose Earthquakes selected attacking defender Todd Dunivant with the sixth pick. Dunivant, 22, had 28 career assists at Stanford, third-best in school history.

The Columbus Crew picked up perhaps the best collegiate player in the draft by selecting transitional international Diego Walsh with the seventh pick. The 23-year-old Walsh, from Brazil, is a gifted defensive midfielder who can change the pace of the game and carry the ball forward.

Walsh looked extremely impressive in the combine but many clubs had worries because of his foreign status. Walsh has been in the United States seven years and will graduate from Southern Methodist.

U-17 star Guillermo Gonzalez went to the Los Angeles Galaxy with the eighth pick, where he will be near his home of Paramount, Calif. He is the U-17's leading striker, with 21 goals and seven assists in 45 games in 2002.

Recent P-40 signee Pat Noonan went to the New England Revolution with the ninth pick. Noonan, 22, an Indiana star and Big Ten Conference player of the year, is a three-time All-America striker who hopes to pair with Taylor Twellman up top in the Revs' system.

Shavar Thomas of Connecticut rounded out the first round at No. 10. Dallas traded its 12th and 55th selections to Los Angeles to pick up the Jamaican youth national team defender, who slipped from earlier projections of a top-three slot after a weak combine showing.

In a draft day trade, Los Angeles acquired the 19th overall pick in the draft and the rights to Honduran forward Alex Pineda Chacon from New England in exchange for goalkeeper Matt Reis.

© 2003 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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