Home Featured Vancouver goes with Salgado as No. 1 SuperDraft pick; Lenarduzzi ‘hopeful’ teen will be cleared to play

Vancouver goes with Salgado as No. 1 SuperDraft pick; Lenarduzzi ‘hopeful’ teen will be cleared to play

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Omar Salgado
The Vancouver Whitecaps stuck to their guns.

Omar Salgado, whose move to the club in August 2010 was scuttled after MLS discovered it would break international transfer rules, was grabbed with the No. 1 pick in the MLS SuperDraft in Baltimore. But, unless Vancouver gets special clearance from FIFA, he won’t be eligible to play for the team until Sept. 10, 2011 — his 18th birthday.

In a conference call held after the first round, Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi said the club will talk to MLS to see if any approach can be made to try and make Salgado eligible before his 18th birthday.

“We are hopeful, but we are not going to be overly aggressive,” said Lenarduzzi, adding that any action Salgado would see before Sept. 10 would be “bonus.”

“I hope I can play in the first game of the season (March 19 against Toronto FC),” said Salgado.

Salgado was everyone’s consensus choice to go No. 1 in the draft… last summer. But, as the NCAA season progressed, Salgado slipped — or at least, all the experts outside of the Whitecaps organization thought he had slipped. The juggernaut that is the University of Akron marched to the NCAA title, and the question was, would forward Darlington Nagbe, winner of the M.A.C.Hermann Trophy as America’s top college player, go No. 1? Or would that honour fall to his teammate, midfielder Perry Kitchen?

Nagbe went No. 2 to Portland, while Kitchen went No. 3 to D.C. United. Akron defender Zarek Valentin went fourth overall to Chivas USA.

Texas-born Salgado, who represented Mexico as a U-17, but then switched to the U.S. program, was with the Chivas Guadalajara’s youth team until last summer, when the teen announced he was leaving Mexico and would make himself eligible for the MLS draft. He immediately received Generation Adidas status.

Salgado is a forward with a strong left foot who can play with his back to goal.

In August, MLS worked out a plan to loan Salgado to the Whitecaps — and this was seen as giving Vancouver, holders of the top draft pick, the chance to test-drive North America’s top prospect in Division-2 soccer.

But, after MLS announced the move, the league and Whitecaps discovered they would be breaking FIFA rules. Salgado was under 18, and he and his family had moved from the U.S. to Mexico. Moving to a third country — Canada — to play soccer before reaching the age of majority isn’t allowed.

But Vancouver was still convinced.

“We had seen enough in that spell in Vancouver,” said Lenarduzzi. “We had him pegged as our number-one pick…. In spite of that (the FIFA rule), we still were convinced that Omar would be our number-one pick.”

Here was MLS’ explanation of the Salgado situation at that time:

“The proposed loan move by the Vancouver Whitecaps for US Under-20 forward Omar Salgado has fallen through due to technicalities with the player’s International Transfer Certificate (ITC). The Portland Timbers stand to benefit from the situation with the player leaving the Whitecaps and joining the USSF Division 2 Portland Timbers for training until the ITC situation is cleared.

“Both the Whitecaps and Timbers join MLS as expansion clubs in 2011.

“Salgado, 16, who spent 18 months with the Chivas Guadalajara reserve team in Mexico, was signed to an MLS Generation adidas contract in early August. He was set to join Vancouver on loan to hone his game in the USSF Division 2 ahead of the 2011 SuperDraft until it was discovered that he was a registered player in Mexico.

“That’s where the ITC clearance hits a snag.

“Under FIFA rules, a player under the age of 18 who is registered in one country can transfer his registration to a different country only if his family moves to that country for non-sporting reasons. Salgado and his family recently relocated to the United States, thereby ruling out the possibility of registering in Canada.

“The process that will lead to Salgado’s ITC clearance and player registration in the USA could take weeks. When it does come about, the US Under-20 national team player will be immediately available to play for any club based in the USA.

“A Canadian club could select Salgado in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, but he would not be permitted to play an official match for that team until the age of 18 unless FIFA makes an exception given MLS’ unique standing as a league with clubs from two federations.”

The broken record of “from the University of Akron…” continued when Vancouver got to the table for the No. 8 pick, which it grabbed in a deal with Toronto FC. The Whitecaps grabbed midfielder Michael Nanchoff, who was a Mid-American Conference first-team all-star in 2010.

MLS SUPERDRAFT, ROUND ONE

1. Vancouver – Omar Salgado (F, US U-20)
2. Portland – Darlington Nagbe (MF/ F, Akron)
3. D.C. United – Perry Kitchen (MF, D Akron)
4. Chivas USA – Zarek Valentin (D, Akron)
5. Philadelphia – Zac MacMath (GK, Maryland)
6. New England – AJ Soares (D, Cal)
7. Houston – Kofi Sarkodie (D, Akron)
8.Vancouver – Michael Nanchoff (MF, Akron)
9. Chicago – Jalil Anibaba (D, UNC)
10. Sporting KC – C.J. Sapong (F, James Madison)
11. Houston – Will Bruin (F, Indiana)
12. Columbus – Rich Balchan (D, Indiana)
13. New York – Corey Hertzog (F, Penn State)
14. Chivas USA – Victor Estupinan (F, Ecuador)
15. Columbus – Justin Meram (F, Michigan)
16. Los Angeles – Paolo Cardozo (MF, Uruguay)
17. FC Dallas – Bobby Warshaw (D, Stanford)
18. Colorado- Eddie Ababio (D, UNC)

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