January 12, 2009
Canuck gem could be TFC's
By GARETH WHEELER, SUN MEDIA
O'Brian White isn't nervous or anxious -- he's curious.
All cards have been thrown on the table for the striker from Scarborough ahead of Thursday's MLS SuperDraft.
A projected top pick just a year ago, White's professional ambitions took a hit, tearing his ACL in October after he decided to return for a senior year at the University of Connecticut.
So White, who won the M.A.C. Hermann Award as the NCAA's top soccer player just a year ago, isn't sure what's going to happen Thursday.
Will he be drafted early or will he be drafted at all?
"I'm not nervous or anything like that, I'm just curious to see what happens and see how things play out," White said.
Chances are and speculation suggests someone's going to take a chance on White in the mid-to-late first round.
The question marks facing White's Major League Soccer future could have been non-existent had he accepted Generation Adidas status after his junior year, signing an MLS contract before completing his NCAA eligibility. Generation Adidas players don't count against MLS team's salary cap.
Instead, White wanted to finish his four-year degree. His sure-fire top-pick status has been sacrificed, but he still stands by his decision.
"I have no regrets of not going Generation Adidas and entering the draft last year," White said. "I would be somewhat disappointed (if I didn't get drafted early) but I wouldn't regret anything."
If White doesn't get drafted in the first round, there's a chance he may not be drafted at all. A team may be more interested in bringing him into camp and evaluating the progress of his rehabilitation, then making a decision.
Regardless, White will have options. A couple of teams from Europe have contacted his agent about his availability.
"It's my dream to play in Europe. I know there has been some interest and it's a place I would like to play some day" he said.
Ideally, White would prefer to launch his career in the MLS.
"The MLS has improved a lot. The soccer is better and the talent has gotten better with more internationals. It's no longer a place where players go to retire. You have to be a complete player," White said.
And despite the FieldTurf at BMO Field, which White makes clear he wasn't fan of even before the injury, Toronto is where he wants to play.
"It would be an ideal situation -- having my family for support makes the situation even better. And the environment (at BMO Field) is electrifying."
The interest between club and player seems to be mutual. White has been on TFC director of soccer Mo Johnston's radar for quite some time.
Johnston, renowned for his drafting ability, has scouted the Big East Conference regularly, and there's no better player coming out of the Big East than the back-to-back Conference offensive player of the year.
That being said, TFC's level of interest in White comes down to how Toronto wants to play its hand on draft day. It makes sense for the team to be ready to deal any or all of its three first-round draft picks to get bonafide MLS-ready players to make a run in the coming year.
Let's face it, aside from a Maurice Edu-type player, there are few rookies who can step on to an MLS roster and make an immediate impact. So, trading the picks for immediate help, and/or drafting a project-type player, someone who can help the side in the future, makes the most sense.
A local reclamation project, a player with No.1 overall potential fits one of those bills.If White can get healthy at his own pace, not being pressured to get into the lineup too soon, he'll be better for it. And, with Danny Dichio good for another season, White could turn into the heir apparent.
If this is the case, Johnston could find himself with another draft-day gem.
The Canadian men's national team is hoping for the same.
White played for Jamaica at the youth levels and has yet to declare who he will play for at the senior level.
"My focus right now is getting healthy and playing. After that, I'll put some thought into it and decide where I want to play."