LOS ANGELES â€” Kwame Awuah dressed for the occasion at the MLS SuperDraft, wearing a metallic-shaded suit and classic bow tie.
It went well with the light-blue New York City FC scarf he happily held after being selected 16th overall â€” the first of four Canadians taken in the first two rounds.
More importantly, the 21-year-old fullback/midfielder from Toronto has looked sharp on the field the last four seasons. He reaped the benefits Friday, continuing remarkable traditions at both UConn and his Toronto-area club Sigma FC.
“This is the day that I’ve actually really dreamt of every day,” Awuah told reporters. “Any time I have a soccer game, this is just another step to becoming a better soccer player and getting to the next level.”
Awuah and former college roommate Jake Nerwinski, a fullback who went seventh overall to Vancouver, are the 13th and 14th Huskies taken in the first round of the MLS draft. UConn has now had 36 players drafted by an MLS club since the league began in 1997.
And it marks the fourth time UConn has had multiple players drafted in the first round (2002, 2012, 2015).
Awuah also extends the Sigma pipeline to the pros. Midfielder Richie Laryea (Akron) went seventh overall to Orlando last year. Forward Cyle Larin (UConn) was taken first overall by Orlando is 2015.
Midfielder Kyle Bekker (Boston College) was selected third overall by Toronto in 2013 and is now with Montreal. Forward Emery Welshman (Oregon State) went 16th to TFC that year.
Awuah started in 82 of a possible 83 games in his Huskies career, coming on in the 10th minute of the lone game he didn’t start. The five-foot-seven, 160 pounder is a good playmaker with an accurate cross.
“This will be a great environment for him to grow and develop as a young professional,” UConn coach Ray Reid said in a statement. “His ability to play multiple positions will come in real handy at the next level. I am so happy that he realized his dream to be become a professional today.”
NYCFC traded up to get Awuah, sending US$75,000 in general allocation money to Seattle to secure the pick.
Prior to the draft, Awuah ran into New York City coach Patrick Vieira in the hotel.
“I wanted to take a picture with him and then he invited me for coffee. We just talked from there, I just wanted to learn from him because he was a renowned player.”
Vieira singled out Awuah’s versatility.
“Kwame is a really interesting player who can play as a left-back, in the midfield or as a winger,” Vieira said in a statement. “He’s left-footed, he’s really tough and he’s a good worker. The fact he can play in different positions is really good.”
New York sporting director Claudio Reyna said he sees Awuah as a left back. “With a team like us, we like to have the ball, he’ll be able to get forward.”
Awuah, who says he will play wherever he is wanted, He adds depth to a position held down by Costa Rican Ronald Matarrita.
Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press