UCSB’s status as a collegiate soccer superpower got another boost on Friday, when two Gauchos were chosen in the first round of the Major League Soccer SuperDraft.
Sophomore midfielder Ciaran O’Brien was chosen by Colorado with the fifth pick of the draft, while senior defender Andy Iro made it back-to-back Gauchos a few minutes later, going to Columbus with the sixth overall pick. Despite pre-draft rumors that he could be a top-five selection, junior midfielder Eric Avila slipped to the second round, where FC Dallas scooped him up with the 19th overall pick. Senior midfielder Brennan Tennelle rounded out the landmark day for UCSB when he was chosen by Real Salt Lake with the 37th overall pick.
The selections marked the first time in school history that four Gauchos were selected in the draft, an amazing feat considering the program had had only five players selected in the SuperDraft before Friday. UCSB joined UCLA as the only schools to have two players go in the first round, and Santa Clara as the only schools to have four players selected overall.
O’Brien spent only one season with the Gauchos, but he took full advantage of his time in Santa Barbara, becoming the first player in school history to be taken in the top-five of the draft. The previous high for the program came in 2004 when Memo Arzate was selected with the 22nd overall pick, a mark that was surpassed by O’Brien, Iro and Avila.
Following his transfer from the University of San Diego, O’Brien wasted no time in making an impact on the field, netting a league high 25 points en route to being named the Big West Midfielder of the Year. O’Brien finished his Gaucho career with one of his strongest games, finishing with two assists in UCSB’s 4-3 loss to Ohio State in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
Perhaps the most decorated player in program history, Iro finished his UCSB career with three Big West Defensive Player of the Year Awards and a College Cup Most Outstanding Defensive Player Award for his contribution to UCSB’s national title run in 2006. The Liverpool, England native was named an All-American in each of his four seasons in Santa Barbara, making him the first player in school history to accomplish the feat.
After signing with Generation Adidas earlier this month, and training with the U.S. Under-23 team, Avila had to wait longer than expected on Friday to hear his name. The three-time All-Big West First Team selection scored four goals to go along with eight assists this season, giving him 15 goals and 18 assists in his three-season Gaucho career.
Despite never receiving the acclaim of some of his teammates, Tennelle was a steady force in the midfield for UCSB in his 45 career starts. The San Diego native finished the season with two goals and three assists, and earned his first All-Big West selection following the 2007 season. Tennelle will join former UCSB goalkeeper Kyle Reynish on the Real Salt Lake squad, as Reynish was taken in the Supplemental Draft following the 2006 season.