Friday, January 15, 2010
Michael Stephens drafted by Galaxy
Minutes felt like hours for Michael Stephens on Thursday.
The former UCLA and U.S. Under-20 national team midfielder had an inkling on where he was going, but he wasn't so sure.
Tick, tock. Tick, tock.
"Even as an insider, you don't really know," Stephens said.
Finally, a text message. It's his agent. As it turns out, he's not going anywhere.
The Los Angeles Galaxy eventually took Stephens with the last pick of the first round (16th overall) in Thursday's Major League Soccer SuperDraft, which works out just fine for him.
Even if it felt as if he waited and waited.
"This is the team I wanted to play for," Stephens added.
Stephens thinks that it's a perfect fit. The 20-year-old, Naperville, Ill. native doesn't have to get used to a new city. He is slated to play his professional games at the Home Depot Center in Carson - a mere 20 miles south of where he played his collegiate ball.
"It will make the transition easier, that's for sure," he said.
Stephens is familiar with the Galaxy, too. He trained with the team's USL Super-20 League affiliate during the offseason. He knows UCLA assistant coach Kenny Arena, the son of Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, well.
The Galaxy is familiar with Stephens, too. The elder Arena can often be seen taking in Bruin games from the bleachers at Drake Stadium.
"He's got a good engine," Bruce Arena told reporters in Philadelphia.
Perhaps Stephens, who was the 2008 Pac-10 Player of the Year (seven goals and nine assists), will eventually replace David Beckham at midfield. Stephens is listed at 5-feet, 9-inches, but he's more than capable as a soccer player. He was the Bruins' primary free-kick and corner-kick specialist. He's not the fastest athlete, but he plays smart and fills the gaps well.
And with the clock on his side now, Stephens doesn't intend on slowing down.
"I'm going to be a guy that works his tail off," Stephens said. "I want to make them happy that they chose me."