For the past 20 years, the MLS SuperDraft has served as a stepping stone to professional soccer for many of our college athletes. All eyes were on the new kid on the block, Austin FC to make their first super draft in team history.
The pundits were talking, the mock drafts were made, the hype was built, and all signs pointed to Philip Mayaka being the most coveted talent in the pool. The countdown timer hit zero, and Claudio Reyna announced ATX FC’s pick: Daniel Pereira.
This was not a surprise to many in the know of the college draftee’s talent. Pereira constantly made the top 3 picks in mock drafts and was recognized as one of the players that would likely be picked up relatively quickly. Nonetheless, no one predicted him to be first, so what are the strengths of this player, and why did Reyna and Wolff pick him?
Pereira plays mostly as a box to box midfielder, he has good composure on the ball, a good work rate, and most importantly likes to be involved in the attack build up. He also has great set piece prowess and is “comfortable [playing] between the lines”- Josh Wolff. It is this offensive prowess that has some in the community seeing Pereira as a more “raw” player with a much higher ceiling than the aforementioned “safe” pick in Mayaka. As Wolff put it: “We’ve picked up a player who is ready to come in and play in MLS but also has room to grow. He’s a hungry, humble player.”
It is perhaps this combination of hunger and humility that makes Pereira fit into the culture that ATX is building as a club. With the exception of Alex Ring playing as a CDM, every position in the midfield for us is seemingly up for grabs ready to be claimed by the most in form player.
In other teams, Pereira would have been sent to the reserves immediately. Instead he gets a chance to compete for a spot. “For the way we want to play, we felt he fit a lot of the needs we’ll expect in that part of the field" according to Josh Wolff.
The road will be difficult to break into the starting line up; however, the situation at the club works in his favor. Pereira won’t necessarily have to deal with any established hierarchies, he gets to join a group of players that have never played together(as a whole, some players have been teammates at past clubs) and as a result might have more chances to impress.
ATX’s dedication to building an academy from before day 1, might also be an indication that the club could be more willing to “play the kids”. Tactically, we will have to wait and see what Pereira can bring. Our set piece taker will most likely be Cecilio, and he will have to compete for that midfield spot. Just as Iron sharpens Iron, so too will this competition for spots sharpen the players and push the team to further heights.