Kansas City Wizards Select Five in MLS SuperDraft
Kansas City Acquires Overland Park Native Matt Besler with 8th Overall Selection
(January 15, 2009) – The Kansas City Wizards selected five players in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft Thursday afternoon in St. Louis, Mo. Matt Besler, a central defender from Notre Dame, was the highlight, as the Wizards took the local product with the 8th overall selection in the 1st round of the draft. After selecting Besler, the Wizards went with offensive-minded players Doug DeMartin of Michigan State and Graham Zusi of Maryland in the 2nd round. Kansas City rounded out its selections with goalkeeper, Neal Kitson of St. John’s, in the 3rd round and midfielder, Akeem Priestley of Connecticut, in the 4th round.
“In the end, I think we had a good draft,” Wizards Technical Director Peter Vermes said. “Besler was a guy we really wanted with our number one pick, so that was important. We got some other very talented players as well, and those guys will get a chance to show us that they can make the team.”
Besler, 21, grew up in Overland Park, Kan., playing club soccer for KCFC Alliance and high school soccer at Blue Valley West. He led BV West to a state championship during his senior season in 2004 as an attacking midfielder/forward. The Kansas City Star selected him as their 2004 Player of the Year for his effort. In college, Besler slid back on the field, eventually finding a home as the starting center back for Notre Dame. Besler was a captain in his senior season and was named to the 1st team All-America team by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America in 2008. He was a three-time All-Big East selection.
“Besler is a guy we’ve had pegged for quite awhile,” Vermes said. “He’s trained with us before, and we were in a great position to try to get him. We were getting a little concerned because we knew there were a few other teams that wanted to draft him. He’s a Kansas City guy, and we took notice of him a long time ago. That really helped us in the evaluation process.”
“We lost Tyson Wahl through the expansion draft and needed to fill a void in central defense,” Head Coach Curt Onalfo said. “We rated Matt Besler as one of the top defenders coming out, and we think he has a very bright future. We look forward to him coming in and competing with Aaron Hohlbein for a starting spot.”
In the 2nd round, Kansas City drafted a pair of offensive-minded players in forward Doug DeMartin of Michigan State and midfielder/forward Graham Zusi of Maryland. DeMartin,22, was named the 2008 Big Ten Player of the Year after a 17-goal season. In 2007, he was a member of the All-Big Ten first team. Zusi, 22, was a four-year player for Maryland who helped the team to National Championship trophies in 2005 and 2008. In 2008, Zusi scored the game-winning goal in a 1-0 victory over North Carolina in the National Championship game. He was named the College Cup most Outstanding Offensive Player.
Kansas City took a goalkeeper in the 3rd round and another midfielder in the 4th round. The Wizards selected St. John’s product Neal Kitson with the 42nd overall pick. Kitson, 23, posted a 0.48 goals against average in 2008, good for 5th best in NCAA Division I play. He was named to the 2008 NCAA Men’s College Cup All-Tournament Team after leading his team to the Final 4. Kansas City then rounded out its draft with attacking midfield prospect Akeem Priestley with the 50th overall selection. Priestley, 23, has appeared for the Jamaican National Team and was a three-year standout at Connecticut. In 2007, he racked up 13 assists to make the 2nd team All-Big East squad for the second straight year.
For a full list of MLS SuperDraft selections, visit the SuperDraft tracker at MLSnet.com..
Kansas City Wizards SuperDraft Selections
ROUND (#) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1st (8) Matt Besler Defender Notre Dame
2nd (22) Doug DeMartin Forward Michigan State
2nd (23) Graham Zusi Midfielder Maryland
3rd (42) Neal Kitson Goalkeeper St. John’s
4th (50) Akeem Priestley Midfielder Connecticut
On the draft as a whole
“In the end I think we had a good draft. Matt Besler was a guy we really wanted with our number one pick, so that was important. We got some other very talented players as well, and those guys will get a chance to show us that they can make the team.”
On the selection of defender Matt Besler in Round 1
“Besler is a guy we’ve had pegged for quite awhile. He’s trained with us before, and we were in a great position to try to get him. We were getting a little concerned because we knew there were a few other teams that wanted to draft him. He’s a Kansas City guy and we took notice to him a long time ago. That really helped us in the evaluation process.”
KANSAS CITY WIZARDS HEAD COACH CURT ONALFO
On the selection of Besler
“We lost Tyson Wahl through the expansion draft and needed to fill a void in central defense. We rated Matt Besler as one of the top defenders coming out and we think he has a bright future. We look forward to him coming in and competing with Aaron Hohlbein for a (starting) spot.”
1ST ROUND SELECTION MATT BESLER (NOTRE DAME)
On his selection and playing with Jimmy Conrad
“It’s so exciting to be picked by my hometown team. I’ve watched the Wizards since I was a kid. I can’t wait to start training and get to know the guys. Jimmy Conrad called me right after I was drafted. He is one of the guys I respect the most, and he’s going to be a great teacher for me.”
2ND ROUND SELECTION DOUG DeMARTIN (MICHIGAN STATE)
On joining the Wizards and his style of play
“Having Rauwshan McKenzie in Kansas City is a cool thing since he’s a fellow Michigan State guy. Overall I’m just really excited. This is a great opportunity and I can’t wait to get a chance to play. I’m a player that likes to score goals and play high. I’m a good athlete, and I’m really excited to start my career with the Wizards.”
2ND ROUND SELECTION GRAHAM ZUSI (MARYLAND)
On the Wizards and his style of play
“I’m very excited about going to Kansas City. They have a great program with great coaches and a great administration. I’m looking forward to going to camp next week and looking to make the team and make an impact. I’m a utility player that will work hard to get into the attack and either score goals or set up goals.”
3RD ROUND SELECTION NEAL KITSON (ST. JOHN’S)
On joining Kansas City
“It’s a tremendous honor to be drafted in the MLS draft. The Wizards are one of the best clubs in the league. I look forward to giving my all to the club and hopefully bringing a bunch of trophies to Kansas City.”
4TH ROUND SELECTION AKEEM PRIESTLEY (CONNECTICUT)
On being drafted by the Wizards
“I think it’s a great opportunity for me, and I’m going to make the best of it. I want to thank the Kansas City Wizards for giving me this chance. I look forward to working hard to make the team and play in front of their fans.”