Jan. 9, 2008
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team will be without two of its top three scorers in 2008 as junior Eric Avila and sophomore Ciaran O'Brien have signed professional contracts with Generation adidas, Major League Soccer's youth development program, it was announced earlier this week.
Both midfielders, Avila and O'Brien have decided to move onto the next level and the duo recently joined the program that according to MLS.com is "designed to identify elite high school seniors and NCAA underclassmen in order to maximize their talents with specific training and intensified instruction". Many Generation adidas players have gone on to become prominent members of Major League Soccer and several alums are currently competing with various U.S. national teams.
By signing with Generation adidas, both Avila and O'Brien are expected to be drafted by an MLS side in the first or second round of the SuperDraft on January 18th in Baltimore. Seven of the first 13 players chosen in the 2007 SuperDraft had signed Generation adidas contracts and a total of six first-rounders in 2006 were alums of the program.
In addition to grooming players for the draft, there are also financial benefits of the program for MLS teams. Generation adidas players do not count towards an MLS senior roster and their contract does not count against the league's salary cap. Committed players will also receive educational grants to further their college education.
"While it is not easy to replace two players as talented as Avi and Ciaran, this is definitely a big step for our program," head coach Tim Vom Steeg said. "When you have the potential to have a couple players drafted in the first round of the MLS Superdraft, you know you're doing some things right and I know we will see the benefit of this on the recruiting trail long term."
A preseason All-American and Hermann Trophy Candidate in 2007, Avila scored four goals and dished out eight assists for a Gaucho squad that finished the season with a No. 8 final national ranking from the NSCAA. A three-time All-Big West First Team selection, Avila leaves UCSB with career totals of 15 goals and 18 assists. The San Diego native helped Santa Barbara win the program's first NCAA National Championship in 2006, scoring the game-winner against UCLA in the final match.
O'Brien made an immediate impact in his first season at UCSB after transferring from the University of San Diego. The native of Federal Way, Washington was named the Big West Conference Midfielder of the Year after leading the league with 25 points on seven goals and 11 assists. Two of his assists came in Santa Barbara's 4-3 loss at Ohio State in the third round of the NCAA Tournament on December 2 . O'Brien went on to earn College Soccer News Third Team All-American honors.
Information in this release courtesy of MLS.com.