At the time the Major League Soccer (MLS) Combine invitees were announced in December, nothing could have been further from the minds of the members of the UCSB men’s soccer team.
After reaching the school’s first ever men’s soccer National Championship game and completing their final seasons in Gaucho uniforms, seniors defender Tony Lochhead and goalkeeper Danny Kennedy are now faced with their final test before the MLS Superdraft as the lone UCSB invitees to the Combine.
“I’m really, really excited. I’ve been waiting for this basically all of my career,” Kennedy said. “What a great way for me and for Tony to show ourselves off to the MLS.”
Kennedy has been the Gauchos’ starting keeper for four years, compiling a career record of 62-13-7 with 34 complete game shutouts, both school records. Lochhead holds the top for career minutes played for UCSB and has been the Gauchos’ most reliable defender for all of his four years. Both Kennedy and Lochhead were named to the College Cup All-Tournament Team and First Team All-Big West. Senior forward, leading scorer and College Cup offensive MVP Drew McAthy was missing from the invitee list, which includes seven College Cup participants.
The MLS Combine will be held Jan. 9-11 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., site of the Gauchos’ National Championship loss just three weeks ago. Invitees were chosen by a committee of coaches from both Division I colleges and the MLS.
“Without a doubt there will be bittersweet memories going back [to the Home Depot Center]; there will always be bittersweet memories there,” Kennedy said. “Then again, there are also great memories there. Playing there was one of the best experiences of my career.”
The 66 invitees will be divided into four teams who will play two games per day over the three days to allow MLS general managers and coaches to evaluate their performance leading up to the Superdraft on Jan. 14. Representatives from all 12 MLS teams will be present at the Combine. The Superdraft will be held in Baltimore, Md. during the NSCAA National Convention.
“I expect to be one of the top three keepers selected in the draft,” Kennedy said. “Other than that, I don’t know what round I’ll be picked or by what team.”
The Gauchos boast two MLS draftees from last year’s squad in midfielders Memo Arzate and David McGill, both drafted by the Los Angeles Galaxy. Arzate recently resigned to a one-year contract with the Portland Timbers of the United Soccer League’s First Division.