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Virginia’s Daryl Dike declares for MLS draft

Virginia's Daryl Dike scored 10 goals this past season, including a late equalizer in the final against Georgetown. (Ben Mckeown/AP)

Daryl Dike, a key figure in Virginia’s run to the College Cup men’s final last month, is forgoing his final two years of eligibility to play in MLS.

The Oklahoma native vaults to the top of the draft list — or close to it — ahead of Thursday’s event. Expansion Inter Miami has the No. 1 and No. 3 picks, and first-year Nashville SC owns the second choice.

Dike, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound striker, had 10 goals and eight assists in 23 matches in 2019. At the College Cup in Cary, N.C., with numerous MLS coaches and general managers in attendance, he scored twice in the semifinals against Wake Forest and notched a late equalizer against Georgetown in the final, won by the Hoyas in a penalty-kick tiebreaker.

A physical presence uncommon in NCAA soccer, Dike at times toyed with defenders. He belied his size with quick turns in the box and used his finishing touch to abruptly change games.

Those characteristics appealed to teams in MLS, where the physical demands and degree of sophistication are far higher than in the college ranks.

Dike (pronounced Dee-Kay) posted five goals and one assist in 13 freshman matches.

His brother, Bright, starred at Notre Dame and was the 12th pick, by Columbus, of the 2010 draft.

Daryl is not the first non-senior from Virginia to turn pro early: Henry Kessler, a 6-4 center back who anchored the nation’s best defense, signed with MLS two weeks ago. He, too, figures to go high in the first round of the draft.

Also, junior midfielder Joe Bell, a New Zealander, is reportedly signing with Viking FK in Norway, the club with which he had trained before deciding to return to Charlottesville this past season.

Bell (seven goals, four assists) was among three finalists for the Hermann Trophy, given to the nation’s best player. The winner, Clemson junior forward Robbie Robinson, and the other finalist, Georgetown senior defender Dylan Nealis, signed MLS contracts late last month.

They are expected to be taken high in the first round.

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