Philly takes Blake with No. 1 pick in MLS draft
Connecticut goalkeeper Andre Blake didn't know much about Philadelphia before arriving in the city for Major League Soccer's draft on Thursday.
He'll have plenty of time to learn about it.
In front of a swarm of local fans that flooded the Philadelphia Convention Center, the hometown Union selected Blake with the top overall pick — making him the first goalie to be selected No. 1.
"I don't know much about Philly," said Blake, who originally hails from Jamaica. "I heard something yesterday about how it's the place for a cheesesteak or something. That's as much as I know. But I'm pretty sure I'll get adjusted and learn everything I need to know."
The Union originally held the second pick but made a surprising draft-day trade with the rival D.C. United to move up, giving up some cash in the deal.
Union manager John Hackworth said they didn't believe Blake would be available at No. 2 and that he was too special of a talent to pass up.
"He can do stuff now that people in our league can't do," Hackworth said.
D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen agreed that Blake was probably the most attractive player coming out of college, and fielded many offers for the top pick because of that. The trade with the Union didn't come to fruition until moments before the draft began.
"He's a special goalkeeper," Olsen said. "I think he's the real thing. We don't need one right now. There was a lot of interest in the pick."
D.C. United got the player they wanted with the second pick in California center back Steven Birnbaum, one of the most experienced players available. Another Cal defender — Christian Dean — was selected with the third pick by the Vancouver Whitecaps.
It marked the third time in MLS history that two players from the same college were selected with consecutive picks.
"It's insane," Dean said. "The University of California has never had anyone go above 5. To go 2 and 3 is crazy. It's kind of an unheard of thing for two players from the same school to go back-to-back so early."
The New England Revolution picked Georgetown All-American midfielder Steve Neumann with the fourth pick, and later added another seasoned college player in Maryland striker Patrick Mullins at No. 11.
Mullins, a two-time MAC Hermann Trophy winner given to college soccer's best player, was expected to go higher but slipped out of the top 10.
"I think that's how the draft works sometimes," Mullins said. "A lot of trades happen, a lot of things come in, there are timeouts all over the place. It makes the spectacle really something to enjoy and cherish. I think I did that. I'm glad I ended up in a great place in New England. And I'm excited."
The Montreal Impact picked Creighton defender Eric Miller at No. 5, FC Dallas selected Colorado School of Mines forward Tesho Akindele at No. 6, and the Whitecaps picked Jamaican international Andre Lewis at No. 7.
Rounding out the top ten were Hartford defender Damion Lowe (Seattle Sounders), Stanford midfielder JJ Koval (San Jose Earthquakes) and Xavier defender Nick Hagglund (Toronto FC).
The last time Philadelphia hosted the draft was in 2010, when the Union were an expansion team. And just like they did then, members of the Sons of Ben — the Union's vocal supporters' group — packed the banquet room nearly an hour before the draft begin, holding signs and singing songs during the first two rounds.
The third and fourth rounds of this year's draft will be held Tuesday via conference call.