By AVI CREDITOR
PHILADELPHIA – Stepping up to the microphone and saying the words have become a regular part of Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber’s annual offseason duty.
"From Wake Forest University…"
With four more first-round selections – Ike Opara (third overall to San Jose), Zack Schilawski (ninth to New England), Corben Bone (13 to Chicago) and Austin Da Luz (14 overall to New York) – Wake Forest left yet another emphatic stamp on the MLS SuperDraft.
“We call it ‘The Franchise,’” said Opara, a member of this year’s Generation adidas class and considered by many pundits to be a franchise centerback. “We’ve produced so many players, it’s a joke with the guys. Coach Jay Vidovich creates a professional environment, and that’s why so many good players make the jump to MLS or Europe.”
The list is impressive. Including the four first-rounders this year, Wake Forest has had at least one player selected in the first round of every draft since 2005.
Past Demon Deacons include Marcus Tracy, Michael Lahoud, Sam Cronin, Pat Phelan, Julian Valentin, Wells Thompson, Michael Parkhurst and James Riley, among others.
New England Revolution coach Steve Nicol has made an unintentional habit of drafting players from Wake Forest over the years. The team drafted Parkhurst, Riley, Thompson and Ryan Solle before picking Schilawski Thursday afternoon.
“They’re a top team in the country, and to be a top team you need good players,” Nicol said. “We don’t have a special plan, but when they’re the best available, you take them.”
With the addition of Schilawski, who accounted for 40 goals and 20 assists in his four years as a Demon Deacon, the Revs hope to have found a dynamic finisher to augment the team’s attack, especially with the uncertainty surrounding Taylor Twellman’s future.
“He’s got a lot of things to his game,” Nicol said. “His record of goal scoring and assists, his love for the game and his willingness – that’s a good combination.”
For the detractors who claim that the college game doesn’t provide a good base for players to make the transition to the professional ranks, Wake Forest represents a rebuttal, as the school contributes heavily to the league’s growing youth movement.
“(Vidovich) is a professional guy, and the team is a professional team,” said Bone, a Hermann Trophy finalist, two-time All-American and member of Generation adidas. “I think that’s why the guys from Wake Forest who go into professional teams, obviously it’s a big jump, but maybe the jump isn’t as high as it is for guys from other colleges.”
Added Da Luz, the left-footed midfielder who had six goals and 15 assists this past season: “(Wake) is all about making yourself the best player you can possibly be, and it shows every year come draft time.”
The future remains fruitful for "The Franchise." Striker Andy Lubahn, who has played in the U.S. national youth team system, scored 10 goals and started every game this past year – his freshman season.