MLS Combine Profile: Akron cornerstone recruit Ampaipitakwong goes out on top

Ampaipitakwong, Anthony

Photo by Tony Quinn/ISIphotos.com

By JOHN BOSCHINI

For Akron midfielder Anthony Ampaipitakwong, his four years at Akron couldn't have ended any better.

After time expired and the Zips' first national title was secured with a 1-0 victory over the Louisville Cardinals, the midfielder from Texas found the man who brought him to Ohio, Akron coach Caleb Porter.

"After the game it was very emotional for me," Ampaipitakwong said. "Me and Caleb were hugging after the game, and he told me when I first came in that Akron would be a national powerhouse by my junior or senior year."

Ampaipitakwong wasn't always so confident. During his senior year, Ampaipitakwong said he would get letters from Akron and laugh it off, not knowing where the school was, much less the specifics of its soccer program.

"But I kept getting calls, and they were saying Caleb wants to build a program around me," Ampaipitakwong said. "He got me up on a visit, and Caleb is such an amazing recruiter. I ended up really buying into his whole philosophy of play."

Ampaipitakwong was one of the first blue-chip recruits for Porter, who took over the coaching position at Akron in 2006. He brought in the 5-foot-8 Ampaipitakwong to adopt a more possession-based style, a philosophy not often seen in the long-ball, physical ranks of college soccer.

Substitutions, a mainstay in college, were largely ignored by the Akron coaching staff. Ampaipitakwong rarely saw the bench, eclipsing 2,000 minutes played in 2010.

In the national championship game, Louisville used 11 substitutions before the Zips used their first, which came in the 79th minute.

"Caleb would leave us in and trust that even when we're tired, we were fitter than the other team," Ampaipitakwong said. "We were always treated like a pro and we were expected to act like pros."

In a few days, the word "professional" will become less of a mantra and more of a job title as Ampaipitakwong prepares for the Major League Soccer SuperDraft. While he might not carry the cache of his five Generation adidas college teammates, Ampaipitakwong is still projected to be a first-round draft pick.

During the MLS Combine, the midfielder will try to showcase his distribution while not ignoring his eye for goal.

"My coaches said that the worst thing you can do at the the combine is show off and dribble," Ampaipitakwong said. "I've never been that person that wants to take on two or three guys. I like to get guys involved and bring out the best in a player."

On draft day, Ampaipitakwong isn't so much concerned about where he'll end up as how it'll be announced. He said that he gives MLS commisoner Don Garber about a 25 percent chance of pronouncing his 14-letter last name correctly. He just hopes Garber does better than an announcer did at one of his youth games.

"He just started, paused halfway through, said 'I'm sorry' and moved on to the next player," said Ampaipitakwong, which is pronounced Am-PIE-pitak-wong. "All of my teammates and coaches thought it was hilarious."

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20 Responses to MLS Combine Profile: Akron cornerstone recruit Ampaipitakwong goes out on top

  1. WahooFan says:

    Ampai is a hell of a player, a great talent. Hopefully he won’t get literally “kicked” out of MLS, due to the leagues physical play. But I think Ampai can flourish eventually in a league like Mexico, Spain, Portugal, France, etc that favors smaller midfielders.

    As a Virginia fan, I can honestly say that i’m also an Ampai fan. Good luck kid.

  2. paulie says:

    Best player on the field during the national championship game. Hope he gets a real chance

  3. Oranje says:

    I met Ampai while visiting Akron. Not only is he a heck of a soccer player he is incredibly personable. He will do well wherever he ends up going.

  4. gstommylee says:

    I hope the mock drafts i seen are right and he ends up being drafted by Seattle.

  5. Annelid Gustator says:

    Weird, I thought his nickname two years ago was “Amp” and not “Ampai”. I like the shorter one better.

  6. Ben says:

    Yeah, the NCAA needs to change some of those rules.

  7. jonk says:

    The substitution rules? That would be nice. Even if it doesn’t happen, hopefully we’ll continue to see coaches treat their teams more like pros in that respect.

  8. bryan says:

    forget Lichaj, how do you say “Ampaipitakwong”?!

  9. Dennis says:

    I was really happy to see Akron win and Ampai flourish. It proves you do not have to load a team with 6’3″ 200 pound bodies and simply punish the other team with shear brute force in order to win in college soccer.
    Ampai’s vision is amazing, he can handle challenges in tight spaces while finding a teammate who is not tightly marked and then makes accurate passes to setup that teammate with time and space.
    I hope an MLS coach who appreciates that talent and will let it flourish will find a way to get Ampai on his squad.

  10. Matt in Detroit says:

    Does anyone know if he projects as a winger or a central playmaker?

  11. Alan says:

    Saw him in the College Cup and I hope he finds a good place in MLS. I do worry a bit that he will be too small to play as an MLS mid. All the pint sized mids that seem to make it in MLS can escape goon tackles with speed on the ball. I did not see any of that in the few games I saw, but of course he had so many options for pass distribution with Akron. I wish MLS would start cleaning up the physical play so a skilled distributor like Ampai could survive and prosper.

  12. A2 says:

    Just like sounds.

  13. ... says:

    As the article says…Am-PIE-pitak-wong. It’s long, but it’s phonetic.

    Lichaj, on the other hand, you have to know how to pronounce. No way you’re coming up with Lee-high without prior knowledge (or a background in Polish).

  14. Dizzo says:

    Sure, no subs is great for that 1% of players that can make it to the pros. For the rest of the team it gives them a chance to play. Isn’t that what amateur athletics is supposed to be about?

  15. Dizzo says:

    I agree, but it’s only partially in the hands of the MLS. The refs are trained by USSF and until they improve the training of the ref pool there’s not much to be done.

    Still, it’s not nearly the horror show that is the CCL reffing.

  16. mike says:

    Is that a Filipino name or South east Asian, or some other country. Just curious because the name is so exotic to my ears.

  17. Matt in Detroit says:

    I’m guessing Thai.

  18. Justin O says:

    It’s honestly not THAT hard to pronounce. As mentioned above, unlike “Lichaj”, which requires some knowledge of the language of origin, every letter is pronounced as you would expect.

    The problem is in the US many people learn to read by essentially memorizing words, rather than sounding out words. If the former is how you learned to read, then this name will certainly stop you in your tracks. If you learned to sound out unfamiliar words, then there’s no reason why you couldn’t get very close to the correct pronunciation of Ampaipitakwong on the first try.

  19. b says:

    No, rules should be as close to uniform as possible, NCAA soccer should be as close to how those at Arsenal are playing it, what some 15 year old in Argentina is playing, etc.

    If I was a high school soccer player being recruited by a college program, I’d want something that would prepare me for everything from MLS to Barcelona.

    Hopefully more college programs adopt Akron’s anti-substitution ways.