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Sporting selects Dom Dwyer with 16th pick

By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star

Dom Dwyer is an Englishman who dreamed of playing American soccer, a rarity to say the least.

But Dwyer is going to get his wish after Sporting Kansas City snapped up the goal-scoring machine from London – a junior at South Florida and Generation adidas signing – with the No. 16 pick in the first round of Thursday’s Major League Soccer SuperDraft, which took place at the Kansas City Convention Center Grand Ballroom.

“It’s something I always wanted to do,” Dwyer said of playing soccer in the U.S. “I had dreams of coming to MLS, but I never really thought I would until last week.”

Dwyer already had enrolled for the spring semester and even bought books for his classes before Generation adidas called – with at least some prodding from Sporting KC – and signed the 21-year-old, making him only the second player from England to receive a contract offer from the soccer development initiative between the MLS and U.S. Soccer, a partnership that will pay Dwyer’s salary the first few seasons.

“It helps that he’s Generation adidas, because there’s no pressure to have to put him against the salary cap right away,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said. “That was some planning on our part.”

Dwyer won two national championships at Tyler (Texas) Junior College, where he was the national junior college player of the year after scoring 37 goals as a sophomore. Moving on to the Bulls, he scored 16 goals in 21 games during the fall.

He joins a crowded group of forwards with Sporting KC, which drafted forwards Teal Bunbury and C.J. Sapong in the first round the last two seasons.

Veteran Kei Kamara is a natural forward who often plays the wing in Sporting KC’s 4-3-3 system. Birahim and 19-year-old Soony Saad provide depth at the position along with Dwyer now.

“He’s another guy who plays with his back to the goal at times, but he is extremely courageous,” Vermes said. “He will stick his nose on the end of somebody’s foot to stick the ball in the back of the net. He’s very aggressive in that sense, a solid guy like that.”

His selection was immediately and loudly endorsed by The Cauldron, Sporting KC’s raucous and rabid group of diehard supporters who brought spirit (and a few laughs) to an unusually sleepy draft.

“It was fantastic,” said Dwyer’s mom, Linda, when asked about the reception her son received when MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced the pick. “The whole atmosphere was amazing and it was really fantastic the ovation he received. You feel like your head’s going to spin off with the excitement.”

Dwyer won’t be asked to duplicate Sapong’s meteoric rise, which culminated in the MLS Rookie of the Year selection, but with so many players being pulled away for national-team duty in advance of the 2012 Summer Olympics, depth at forward is a precious commodity for Sporting KC.

“We’ve proven that we like to play an entertaining and attacking game,” Vermes said. “This was a top-heavy draft in regards to attacking players, so it only made sense that we were going to go that way. There were many players out there that we liked, but he’s a good get for us.”

Dwyer has drawn comparisons to ferocious Red Bulls forward Luke Rodgers for his relentless pressure and finishing ability anywhere in the 18-yard box.

Sporting KC also addressed its depth on the back line, which many speculated would be a first-round priority, with the 30th overall selection, adding defender Cyprian Hedrick with the 11th pick in the second round.

Hedrick, a 6-foot, 170-pounder Sporting KC plans to use at centerback, was a first-team Academic All-American and the Big South Defensive Player of the Year as a senior last fall at Coastal Carolina.

“Physically, he can go into the league right away,” Vermes said. “He’s good on the ball, he’s a good passer of the ball and he’s very fast.”

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