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Less than an hour after being selected No. 5 by Real Salt Lake in Thursday's MLS SuperDraft, Omar Holness explained what he knew about the club he was newly part of.
The 21-year-old Jamaican midfielder from the University of North Carolina rattled off names of acquaintances like former Tar Heel teammate Boyd Okwuonu and Jamaican national team legends RSL original Andy Williams and assistant coach Tyrone Marshall.
Then he got to a player he said he's emulated for quite some time.
"I know Mr. [Kyle] Beckerman," he said on a conference call with reporters. "He's a very prolific player and he's a big name in the league."
The kid apparently knows his stuff.
RSL drafted Holness, a rangy, long-legged, 6-foot-tall midfielder, to strengthen its central midfield corps in 2016 and beyond. Holness, who spent the past three years with the Tar Heels, is also considered an up-and-comer on the Jamaican national team, having spent last summer with the Reggae Boyz at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup and the U-23s in Olympic qualifying prior.
Holness is one of Major League Soccer's Generation Adidas signings, a jointly operated program between the league and Adidas to develop domestic talent in the U.S. Additionally, Generation Adidas players become part of a club's supplemental roster and don't count toward a club's salary cap.
In three seasons at North Carolina, he scored four goals and had 11 assists in 59 appearances with the Tar Heels. He was named as a first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection in 2014.
"Candidly," said RSL general manager Craig Waibel, "Holness was the guy we wanted point-blank and we got him."
The club's highest draft pick since 2008 understands being a top-five pick will bring its own pressure, but didn't shy away from making his personal expectations known.
"We need to hone in and focus on winning and winning games, and that's what I'm here for," he said. "I'm a born champion and I'm a born winner, and that's what I bring to the table."
Where he fits in and how long it takes him to get to that point remains to be seen. Waibel curtailed expectation, saying he anticipates Holness to contribute in 2016. Every player's transitional period is different, he explained, and some are shorter than others.
"I think his contribution is expected," Waibel said. "To what extent? That's up the player to come in and prove to us."
Holness again said he's modeled his game after Beckerman, RSL's captain, as well as Williams, a crafty central midfielder in his playing days, who he watched play for the Reggae Boyz growing up in Jamaica. Where he'll be pushing for minutes at RSL is likely alongside Beckerman where Luke Mulholland started most of 2015, being asked to cover ground between the boxes and disrupt the opposition.
"I know this transition won't be easy," Holness said, "but at the same time, nothing in life is easy."
"I think positionally, we're going to be coaching him a lot to transition into our style of play," Waibel added. "But he's a guy that has the ability to cover a lot of ground, he enjoys going forward Kyle's the exact same way, so he's very wise to model a little bit of his game after one of our best players we've ever had."
With its second pick in Thursday's SuperDraft, RSL took Notre Dame left back Max Lachowekci 25th. A three-year starter for the Fighting Irish, RSL's followed his program the past two years, Waibel said.
"We know a lot about his game," he said. "He's a promising left back. He likes the ball at his feet, he likes to get forward, he's a very comfortable, attack-minded guy."
RSL's SuperDraft additions
No. 5 pick • Midfielder Omar Holness, UNC: The 21-year-old played in 59 games in three years at UNC, scoring four goals and registering 11 assists. Started 55 games in his career as a Tar Heel. A first-team All-ACC selection in 2014. Part of Jamaica's 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup roster.
No. 25 pick • Left back Max Lachowecki, Notre Dame: The 23-year-old from Evansville, Ind., was a three-year starter with the Fighting Irish. He had four goals and eight assists in three seasons at Notre Dame. Was a team captain in 2015.
MLS SuperDraft highlights
• New York City FC traded for No. 1 overall pick Jack Harrison of Wake Forest, who was taken by the Chicago Fire. In return, the Fire received Stanford defender Brandon Vincent.
• Philadelphia, already owners of two top-10 picks, traded for Colorado's No. 2 pick, taking Georgetown defender Josh Yaro. A pick later, the Union took Georgetown outside back Keegan Rosenberry. At No. 6, Philadelphia took Creighton midfielder Fabian Herbers.
• Orlando City takes Akron midfielder Richie Laryea No. 7.
• San Jose solidifies its goalkeeper depth by adding Andrew Tarbell from Clemson at No. 8.
• Toronto FC makes a surprise pick at No. 9 by selecting Japanese midfielder Tsubasa Endow from Maryland.
• Rounds 3 and 4 of the MLS SuperDraft will take place via conference call on Tuesday, Jan. 19.; RSL holds the 46th, 65th and 66th picks