The rich got richer on Thursday afternoon when Sporting Kansas City, already two time Eastern Conference regular season first-place finishers, were the beneficiaries of University of North Carolina midfielder Mikey Lopez slipping down the board on draft day. Sporting KC selected the never-say-stop, two-way midfielder with the 14th overall pick of the 2013 MLS SuperDraft.
Lopez, 19, is a current United States Under-20 national team player, most recently called up last week to a 2013 CONCACAF Championships training camp. That camp is currently taking place in Puebla, Mexico where Lopez was training along with one of his newest teammates, Sporting goalkeeper Jon Kempin.
Lopez was signed by Major League Soccer to a Generation adidas contract, meaning that his salary will not count against the club's salary cap until he has officially "graduated" the program - a la Chance Myers from 2008.
"Very good player. Has big upside ... Should be a 1st Round pick ... Fiesty, terrier kind of guy but can be an attacking midfielder in MLS ... Has the ability to compete for playing time in his first year in midfield ... He can potentially play in a lot of different systems in midfield ... He's got the fortitude and the personality and mentality and mindset to see playing time ...
"Has all the tools. He's very creative ... Extremely hard working, great lungs, can run all day. He's a pitbull .. Box-to-box guy and he's good at it ... Major quality is his ability to close down and he's very much a defensive-minded player ... Puts out fires ... Technique is his weakness. He's not a good passer of the ball ... He's heart, he's drive, he can close up and he's consistent in his performances. You know what you're going to get ... He's undersized but plays deep in midfield"
Given those descriptions, Lopez looks to be a bit of a project replacement in the Roger Espinoza mold; a player that runs all day, fights to win the ball back, can and will pop up in all parts of the field over 90 minutes, raw with potential abound. At 19 years old, that's a great low-risk, high-reward, high upside selection from Peter Vermes and Co., who seem to have hit the draft jackpot once again.
Lopez, born in Dallas, Tex., also shouldn't have much trouble acclimating himself to the warm and humid summer weather in Kansas City.