Youth gone wild

By By Brian Shaw

By Brian Shaw

“Youth Gone Wild,” the heavy-metal tune of the 1980s would have been most apropos on a day like last Friday.

That’s the day MLS expansion team Real Salt Lake wasted no time shocking the audience in Baltimore-and those watching on cable channel FOX Sports World-with its first selection.

While it was widely believed midfielder Danny O’Rourke of national champion Indiana University-the Herrmann Award winner as top college player-would be the first pick, Real instead turned to the youth ranks.

They selected the second-youngest player ever, a person coach John Ellinger is familiar with.

Real selected Nickolas Besagno, a tow-headed, 16-year-old defensive midfielder from Apple Valley, Wash., as their first player-and first player overall-in Friday’s 2005 MLS SuperDraft.

Besagno is a 6-foot, 170-pounder who is currently a member of the United States’ Under-17 National Team, and preparing to enter training camp for the Under-20 side. His commitments to the national teams will delay his Real debut until early fall.

While Besagno is the second-youngest player ever to be drafted in MLS (D.C. United phenom Freddy Adu was the youngest at age 14), Ellinger said he was not at all concerned with Besagno’s subpar performance at last week’s MLS Adidas Player Combine.

Having coached the youngster at the Under-17 camps, and knowing firsthand Besagno’s abilities, was plenty of reason for Ellinger to select him as the first overall pick.

It is not expected that Besagno will play many minutes for Real’s first team this season, said analyst Allen Hopkins of FOX Sports World during the draft telecast. Rather, he said the youth star will get his minutes on Real’s reserve team, a squad that will pick up a considerable amount of players in two weeks’ time once the Reserve Draft is conducted.

Those players will probably include college players who were not selected in the draft and “discovery” picks chosen at Real’s private try-out, which is to be held Saturday at Brigham Young University.

Other players selected by Real in Friday’s draft included 18-year-old forward Jamie Watson of the University of South Carolina at No. 13, another Ellinger pupil on the U-17 National Team and goalkeeper Jay Nolly of Indiana at No. 22.

Real got perhaps the steal of the SuperDraft when midfielder Luke Kreamalmeyer of Bradley dropped all the way to No. 37 after having displayed terrific form at last week’s combine where he earned MVP honors. Of the 48 players drafted, all but two were college players, spanning all parts of the U.S., including nine foreign-born players.

Of those 48 players selected Friday, 12 were also signed as Generation Adidas players. Generation Adidas is Major League Soccer’s new youth player development program designed to identify and nurture the elite youth soccer talent in the United States. All were signed to MLS and Adidas endorsement contracts.

They included several youth national team players in addition to Watson and Besagno, and a few college stars. MLS and Adidas also announced they will sponsor Real and Chivas, the two expansion MLS franchises, in 2005.

Real now has 19 players on its roster. Their league opener will be on MLS’ Opening Day April 2 in Giants Stadium as they face the New York/New Jersey MetroStars.

They will open at home in Rice-Eccles Stadium against Colorado on April 16.

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