MEN'S SOCCER | GU Trio Tabbed in MLS SuperDraft
Published: Friday, January 18, 2013
Updated: Friday, January 18, 2013 12:01
For the first time in seven years, Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft was a busy day for Georgetown: The Hoyas — who went 19-4-3 this past season en route to a spot in the national championship game — had three seniors’ names called in Indianapolis, with center back Tommy Muller leading the way by going 15th to the San Jose Earthquakes.
Central midfielder Ian Christianson (22nd to the New York Red Bulls) and left back Jimmy Nealis (37th to the Houston Dynamo) were the other two members of the historic 2012 Blue and Gray squad drafted on the day.
Muller, a Florida native, made eight appearances during an injury-shortened freshman season before assuming a central role as Head Coach Brian Wiese’s “general” during his final three years on the Hilltop. His back problems resurfaced two games into his senior campaign, causing him to be sidelined for much of the Hoyas’ early slate, but he made his permanent return for a Sept. 29 win over Pittsburgh.
Named to the College Cup All-Tournament Team following his side’s heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Indiana in the finals, Muller now looks to have his work cut out for him in San Jose. The Earthquakes — who boasted the best regular season record in MLS in 2012 — were led by league scoring leader Chris Wondolowski up top, but their defensive unit held opponents to an average 1.26 goals per game, tying them with D.C. United for seventh overall. Honduran international center back Victor Bernardez is the Earthquakes’ back-line standout, while 2012 All-Stars Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow man the flanks.
Due to his size, Muller had been talked about as a potential right back option in the days leading up to the draft, but unseating Beitashour, who was called up to the U.S. national team’s January training camp, would be no easy task. Barring the possibility of offseason transfers opening up space, Muller’s best bet might involve challenging for the spot currently occupied by Jason Hernandez, Bernardez’s partner in the middle.
The third pick of the second round, Christianson will likewise not be freely given a starting role in his new home in New York. The offseason departures of midfielders Rafa Marquez and Teemu Tainio will give him an opportunity to stake his claim, but a change in formation must occur for Christianson to break into the regular lineup. Occasional U.S. international Dax McCarty capably patrolled the center of the pitch for the Red Bulls last season, and — unless McCarty catches the injury bug — a shift to two holding/defensive midfielders will be needed in order to insert Christianson into the mix.
Christianson arrives in the Big Apple with quite the pedigree, having earned All-Big East and second-team All-America honors as a sophomore in addition to being named to the College Cup All-Tournament and All-Big East teams as a senior. Still, signing with the Red Bulls presents a sizeable lifestyle shift for the Iowa native, who will now be plying his trade for one of MLS’ two biggest-market franchises (the two-time defending champion L.A. Galaxy being the other).
Nealis, projected by some analysts as an early second-rounder, ended up having to wait until the second-to-last pick before he could rest. Corey Ashe appears fairly entrenched at left back for the 2011 and 2012 runner-up Dynamo; both he and Nealis are attack-minded wingbacks, though, meaning that a move into the midfield would not exactly be a surprise for either player. Ultimately, Nealis, in all likelihood, looks to be more of a depth option for now than anything else.
Muller, Christianson and Nealis were all invitees to this year’s MLS Combine in Florida, and Muller was said to have shown particularly well in combine scrimmages, as reflected in his raised draft stock. Forward/midfielder Andy Riemer — who scored the game-clincher in the Elite Eight and had two goals in the Big East tournament final — was not invited and went undrafted. Riemer will have another opportunity to latch on, however, when the supplemental draft rolls around on Jan. 22.
And Wiese, for one, isn’t worried.