Akron Places Five in Top Eight of MLS Draft

Updated 1/13/2011

Story courtesy of Akron Athletic Communications

History was made Thursday at the 2011 Major League Soccer SuperDraft as seven members of the national champion University of Akron men's soccer team had their names called - including five in the first round - at the Baltimore Convention Center.

UA landed five of the first eight picks of the draft to set an MLS standard for most first-round selections from a single school, surpassing Wake Forest's previous mark of four in 2010. Moreover, with seven draftees on the day, Akron set another milestone for most selections by a team, which ironically had also previously belonged to the Demon Deacons, who had six players drafted in 2009. UA head coach Caleb Porter and his staff have now produced 12 MLS draft picks in the last four seasons, including eight players taken in the top 10.

Hermann Trophy winner and two-time NSCAA All-American Darlington Nagbe was the first of three straight UA selections on the day, going No. 2 overall to the expansion Portland Timbers. Nagbe finished seventh in the country with a career-high 13 assists, with six setting up game-winning goals, in 2010. The Mid-American Conference Player of the Year also found the net seven times, including a pair of game-winners against then-ranked No. 9 Creighton and Western Michigan in the MAC Tournament championship match.

A pair of standouts from the United States U-20 National Team followed with freshman midfielder Perry Kitchen going No. 3 to D.C. United and sophomore defender Zarek Valentin going No. 4 to Chivas USA. Kitchen burst onto the scene as a true freshman and started all 25 games from his defensive midfield position. After finishing with six goals, including two beautiful long-range strikes in both the Zips' NCAA quarterfinal match against Cal and the NCAA semifinal against Michigan, Kitchen was named to the all-freshman teams by Soccer America, College Soccer News and Top Drawer Soccer.

Valentin, a College Soccer News All-American in 2010, started every game of his two-year career and recorded his first career point by assisting the game-winner in UA's 1-0 victory at Michigan State this season. Valentin's selection reunites him with former Zips' midfielders Blair Gavin and Ben Zemanski, who were each drafted by the franchise in 2010.

A couple of picks separated another run of Akron players as Soccer America Player of the Year Kofi Sarkodie and All-Great Lakes Region standout Michael Nanchoff went in successive order at No. 7 and No. 8 to Houston and Vancouver, respectively. Sarkodie, the Academic All-America of the Year, recorded a career-high eight goals and six assists in 22 games from his outside back position in 2010.  In all, the junior defender finished with five game-winning goals, which was the second-highest total on the team. Sarkodie led the Zips to the national championship game with a header in the 74th minute to defeat Michigan in the NCAA semifinal (Dec. 10) after recording his first career hat trick against the Wolverines in a 7-1 rout during the regular season (Oct. 19).

Nanchoff was named to the All-Great Lakes Region team after netting a career-high 10 goals, including three game-winners last season. The junior midfielder also finished with nine assists on the campaign, though none was bigger than the cross that led to Sarkodie's game-winning header that defeated Michigan at the College Cup and advanced the Zips back to the national championship game for the second straight year.

The fun continued in round two as two instrumental seniors had their turn. Defender Chris Korb got the call first, becoming the second UA player to be drafted by D.C. United with the 31st overall pick. Midfielder Anthony Ampaipitakwong, the 2010 winner of the Lowe's Senior CLASS award and two-time Hermann Trophy semifinalist, followed shortly after going two picks later to San Jose.

Korb started every game of his UA career since transferring from Xavier in 2007 and provided a physical presence on the Zips' back line. He logged 2,208 minutes last fall - the third-highest total on the team - and was a key contributer on a defense unit that set school records for goals-against-average (0.27) and shutouts (19) in 2009. UA's 19 shutouts that season represented the second-highest, single-season total in NCAA history while its GAA and shutout percentage (.760) were ranked third all-time.

Ampaipitakwong, who was Porter's first big-name recruit and a key building block on UA's championship team, was an Academic All-American and a member of Soccer America's Team MVP First Team in 2010. He finished his career as the school's all-time leader in games played (93) and netted 17 goals and 30 assists as a four-year letter-winner.

In all, the Zips recorded more MLS draft picks in just a few hours Thursday (7) than it had in its previous 55 years as a program (6). In all, 13 Akron players have been drafted by the MLS starting with Cameron Knowles, who was picked by Real Salt Lake in the 2005 supplemental draft. Sinisa Ubiparipovic, who was drafted by the New York Red Bulls in the third round of 2007, became the first UA player during the Porter era to get the call and paved the way for a flurry of selections that would follow.  

Steve Zakuani, the Hermann Trophy runner up in 2008, became the first Akron player to be selected with the No. 1 overall pick of the draft (Seattle Sounders) in 2009. UA remains one of just eight schools to have recorded the top overall selection since the creation of the draft in 1996. Teal Bunbury, the 2009 Hermann Trophy winner, would be one of three Zips taken the following year when Sporting Kansas City made the athletic striker with Canadian roots the No. 4 pick overall. Adding to the list that season were teammates Blair Gavin (No. 10) and Ben Zemanski (No. 47), who were each drafted by Chivas USA.

The 2010 Zips captured the school's first team national championship in any sport by defeating Louisville, 1-0, on Dec. 12 in Santa Barbara, Calif.

UA All-Time Major League Soccer Draft History
Darlington Nagbe, First Round (No. 2 overall), Portland Timbers, 2011
Perry Kitchen, First Round (No. 3), D.C. United, 2011
Zarek Valentin, First Round (No. 4), Chivas USA, 2011
Kofi Sarkodie, First Round (No. 7), Houston, 2011
Michael Nanchoff, First Round (No. 8), Vancouver 2011
Chris Korb, Second Round (No. 31), D.C. United, 2011
Anthony Ampaipitakwong, Second Round (No. 33), San Jose, 2011
Teal Bunbury, First Round (No. 4 overall), Sporting Kansas City, 2010
Blair Gavin, First Round (No. 10), Chivas USA, 2010
Ben Zemanski, Third Round (No. 47), Chivas USA, 2010
Steve Zakuani, First Round (No. 1), Seattle Sounders, 2009
Sinisa Ubiparipovic, Third Round (No. 33), New York Red Bulls, 2007
Cameron Knowles, Fourth Round (No. 37, supplemental draft), Real Salt Lake, 2005