By AVI CREDITOR
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Generation adidas tag typically translates into high MLS SuperDraft position, but for three of this year's nine signings, that did not turn out to be the case.
Not like it matters all that much. All three fell into pretty ideal club situations from individual perspectives.
South Florida striker Dom Dwyer, North Carolina playmaker Enzo Martinez and Creighton left back Tyler Polak each had to wait a bit longer than expected to hear their names called on Thursday, but there is a glaring silver lining. All three players are in position to start their professional careers off in places that will foster their growth and yield either solid playing time, top-notch mentorship or both.
Dwyer, a 16-goal scorer for the Bulls after two years at junior college, fell to striker-happy Sporting Kansas City with the 16th overall selection. Martinez, national-champion UNC's sparkplug, falling to 17th was probably the biggest surprise of the first round, but there might not be a better fit for team and player in the draft than him ending up at Real Salt Lake.
Polak, meanwhile, tumbled because of a meager combine and was the second left back taken, going off the board with the third pick of the second round (22nd overall) to New England, a team not only in immediate need of help at the position, but one in need of a rock there for the future.
Dwyer and Polak were both in the same boat entering the combine. They both signed their Generation adidas deals right before the combine, had little time to prepare for the highly analyzed and scrutinized event and ended up struggling. Dwyer, in fact, was preparing to head back to South Florida to continue school before getting his GA offer at the last moment.
"Until they called me, my bags were packed," Dwyer said. "I was actually on a plane to Tampa. My dad finalized it and sorted it for me. It was surreal. I had all the Generation adidas talk during the break and it kind of died down a bit, and I thought maybe not this year. Up comes the offer, and I jumped at it."
The late start on combine preparations showed. Dwyer managed to score a goal in his final game, but he hardly demonstrated the form that made him one of the top finishers in college soccer.
"I was said to be a little higher (in draft projections) before the combine," Dwyer said. "I didn't have my greatest combine. I wasn't quite as ready for that as I wanted to be, but I'm happy I didn't have the greatest performance, because I ended up here."
With members of the Kansas City Cauldron in attendance feverishly cheering his selection at the Kansas City Convention Center, Dwyer took the podium with a bounce in his step, realizing the opportunity ahead of him. With Teal Bunbury due for a busy international year (and perhaps C.J. Sapong as well) and Omar Bravo gone to Cruz Azul, Dwyer is in position to contribute in Peter Vermes' 4-3-3 formation sooner rather than later.
"I couldn't even hear myself when I was up (at the podium)," said Dwyer, who admitted he was surprised to land in Kansas City because he hadn't spoken with the coaching staff at the combine. "I'm excited to be in an attacking lineup where you have three forwards. It gives me a better opportunity myself, and obviously an attacking team, I love attacking and getting forward and if I can be in any part of that and help the team in any way I'm excited to do that and I feel like I'm ready to do that."
Polak isn't likely to come in and contribute as soon (nor is New England likely to turn the left back reins over to a 19-year-old defender), but with coach Jay Heaps, an all-star fullback in his playing days, as his mentor, the learning curve should accelerated considerably.
Polak almost didn't end up in MLS at all. He explored his options overseas before ultimately signing with league in the 11th hour. He said that he was in talks with a club in Finland, two in Denmark and two in Germany, but nothing panned out. He had trained with one of the German clubs, Borussia Monchengladbach, in 2010 before returning to Creighton for his sophomore season.
"It's been hectic from signing GA on one of the last days and rushing to the combine," Polak said. "Jay Heaps coming in, it's a new beginning for him, a new beginning for me. I'm excited about that. This is definitely a good fit."
The best fit of all is in Sandy, Utah, though, where Martinez' skill set meshes perfectly with RSL's possession-and-passing-oriented attack. He'll provide much-needed, ready-to-play depth in the midfield now that the likes of Andy Williams and Collen Warner are gone while entering a locker room full of strong leaders.
"It doesn't matter what team I was going to land on," Martinez said. "I was going to have the same mentality, but I'm so glad I landed here. After I met with the coaches at the combine I felt amazing, they made me feel so welcome so I could be myself and relax. It was a great meeting.
"It's a dream come true," Martinez said. "I'm excited to learn so much from guys that have been there and done that."
For Martinez — and Dwyer and Polak as well — perhaps the unanticipated wait has proven to be worth it in the end.