D.C. United selects North Carolina's Jordan Graye in MLS draft

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 15, 2010

PHILADELPHIA -- D.C. United's coaching staff and executives were seated around a table inside the Philadelphia Convention Center for what seemed like a week on Thursday afternoon, inevitably losing interest in an MLS draft at which they were primarily spectators.

After trading the seventh overall pick to the expansion Philadelphia Union a day earlier as part of a deal to reacquire goalkeeper Troy Perkins, United didn't have a selection until midway through the fourth (and final) round.

Finally, 4 hours and 10 minutes into the proceedings, long after the rowdy supporters representing D.C., Philadelphia and New York had departed, the club claimed with its only pick North Carolina defender Jordan Graye, a DeMatha High graduate who played in United's youth system. He would provide cover at right back for veteran Bryan Namoff, who is recovering from a concussion.

"He's a guy we have had on our radar for a long time," United Coach Curt Onalfo said. "We were surprised he wasn't invited to the [scouting] combine. He has a good shot to make our roster."

As expected, Philadelphia used the first overall pick on Oregon State forward Danny Mwanga. Midfielder Tony Tchani, who helped Virginia win the NCAA title last month, was selected second by New York and Wake Forest defender Ike Opara went third to San Jose.

United found the draft richly rewarding last year, taking starters Chris Pontius and Rodney Wallace in the first round, but the club's priority this winter is the international market.

The acquisition of Perkins, who spent the past two years with Valerenga in Norway, filled a pressing need at goalkeeper. And next week Onalfo and assistant Kris Kelderman are scheduled to scout in Brazil while another official heads to Costa Rica.

With the departure of striker Luciano Emilio, midfielder Fred and the likely exit of playmaker Christian Gómez, United is in search of attacking help. It also could use an experienced central defender.

"We have tracked some guys for quite some time that we are pretty close to making a decision on," Onalfo said. "If we see someone we like right away that fits into our salary structure, we'll sign them right away."

United did just that last month, acquiring Salvadoran midfielder Cristian Castillo to play on the left flank. The club will look primarily in Central and South America but won't rule out the more expensive European market.

For the playmaking job, club officials said that, although they are looking for help abroad, Santino Quaranta, Danny Szetela and Jaime Moreno will be considered. United could also alter its system and play with two central midfielders side by side instead of a traditional playmaker and defensive midfielder, Onalfo added.

While the search for offensive help continues, the first priority was finalizing the deal for Perkins, who played four seasons for United before being sold to Valerenga. Since his departure, D.C.'s goalkeeping situation has been a mess.

Zach Wells (now retired) and Louis Crayton (waived last summer) split duty in 2008 and the club used four goalies last year. Josh Wicks, the starter much of last season, is recovering from shoulder and knee operations and won't be available until probably April. Milos Kocic and Bill Hamid lack experience.

"It goes beyond his play on the field," General Manager Dave Kasper said of Perkins. "He has tremendous leadership abilities and he is all business. He will make our backline better. He will make our young goalkeepers better. We know what Troy is about. When you bring players in, there is always the unknown. Not in this case."

Soccer notes: Thomas Dooley, a former U.S. World Cup defender, and Preki, a two-time MLS most valuable player who now coaches Toronto, were elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame. . . .

In the second round, Virginia midfielder Ross LaBauex was chosen by Colorado and Maryland midfielder Drew Yates (DeMatha) went to Chicago. Terrapins defender Kevin Tangney was picked by Chivas USA in the third round. . . . United defender Dejan Jakovic has been invited to Canadian national team training camp ahead of a Jan. 31 friendly at Jamaica.

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