This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Oceanside, Calif. • Max Lachowecki tuned in until the fifth pick of the MLS SuperDraft was announced. At home in Evansville, Ind., Lachowecki watched as North Carolina midfielder Omar Holness walked to the stage after being chosen by Real Salt Lake. At that point nerves hit the Notre Dame left back.
Like a true Indiana kid, Lachowecki told his mom, Kay, he was headed outside to shoot baskets in the driveway to calm himself down. He launched away at the family hoop for what felt like an hour before finally gaining enough strength to walk back inside and ask how far they were into the second round. The first round of the SuperDraft was filled with trades, though. By the time he walked in, they were only 15 picks into Round 1
So Lachowecki went back to the driveway, back to the basketball hoop and kept firing away. Until he heard the text message signal on his phone. It was a buddy of his who works at Major League Soccer. Lachowecki was being drafted. He thought of all the scenarios: Which team, where it was located, if his buddy was playing a prank on him. Then he walked back into the living room and saw his name and caught RSL on the screen.
First Jeff Cassar called.
Then Lachowecki's agent.
Cassar asked if he saw the announcement that RSL took the Notre Dame defender with the fifth pick in the second round. Embarrassed, Lachowecki said no. He was outside takings shots on his hoop. The nerves settled. He knew his former Fighting Irish teammate, RSL center back Aaron Maund, was there. He was ecstatic to be joining a club somewhere outside of the Midwest.
"It's been Indiana my whole life," he said.
Not anymore. The 5-foot-10 defender is one of four RSL rookies in this year's preseason camp in Oceanside, Calif. Along with Holness and Lachowecki are fellow draftees Dayton midfielder Amass Amankona and Creighton goalkeeper Connor Sparrow. Holness signed a Generation adidas contract with MLS before the SuperDraft, but the other three are a little more than a week into their first camp as a professional, facing tall odds of making the first-team roster.
Lachowecki and Amankona said they understand those odds. Lachowecki said he doesn't think about it or else it would eventually have a negative impact on how he trains and plays this preseason.
"You face that your whole life growing up trying to make teams," he said. "You have to be realistic with yourself."
Amankona, a small, shifty attacking midfielder from Ghana, was watching the SuperDraft in his coach's office at Dayton. He received a phone call from RSL assistant general manager Elliot Fall that the club was all but set to draft him in the third round. RSL eventually did.
"I saw a style of play that suits mine," Amankona said. "That made me get more excited."
During Monday's training session, Amankona was in a midfielder drill alongside Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales and Luke Mulholland. In Saturday's win over San Diego State, he was working the sideline with Morales.
He's adjusting, he said, learning the intricacies best he can. All the rookies are. Sparrow is taking reps alongside Nick Rimando and Jeff Attinella.
Where these rookies end up over the next few weeks remains unknown. All three could theoretically sign with Real Monarchs and start their USL careers under the RSL umbrella.
"Coming from Ghana, it's a different environment," Amankona said. "I know I need to work hard, stay consistent … my focus is to stay positive and just keep my head down and work hard as much as I can to help this team get to the highest level."
Lachowecki described his style much like Cassar and general manager Craig Waibel did after they drafted him: A left-footed winger/outside back who likes to get forward and provide dangerous crosses into the box.
"Whatever I can do to make sure we're not giving up goals," he added. "The speed of play is obviously a little bit faster. I'm getting used to closing guys down a little better."
He forced the initial turnover Saturday against the Aztecs that led to Devon Sandoval's assist to Morales for the eventual game-winner. Regardless of odds, Lachowecki said his primary goal is to make a first team, whether it be with RSL or somewhere else. But the USL route is obviously intriguing.
"I truly believe I do have the talent to be on a first team, so that's the goal," he said. "It's definitely nice to know if you don't make the team that it's not over. There's certainly guys who are in my situation, if it doesn't go the way they want, they can now play on a team that is closely-affiliated and training in the same area."
» Mulholland approves Men in Blazers' 'pitch' of Terry-to-RSL • Luke Mulholland started joking about the possibility of RSL signing Chelsea center back John Terry, who on Sunday announced he was going to leave his longtime club at the end of the season. Terry, 35, joined Chelsea youth system at 14 and has starred in nearly 700 games for the Blues.
He's won a UEFA Champions League title plus four English Premier League crowns.
And, RSL is in the market for a center back. But the English midfielder hadn't noticed that the Men in Blazers, a popular weekly soccer podcast run by British duo Michael Davies and Roger Bennett, had jokingly started referring to Terry in recent weeks as "Real Salt Lake's John Terry." When informed of such, Mulholland had something to say on the matter.
"I'm sure John Terry would love to come out to Salt Lake and buy a little house in the mountains and just nestle there for a couple years and win a championship with us," Mulholland said. "I think it'd be a good switch for him."