Soares Heads Historic Cal Draft Class

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It is almost every child's dream to pursue a career as a professional athlete. Few actually make those dreams a reality.

When A.J. Soares was 11 years old, the vision of finding a place among those select few became a focus.

"I had no idea what it would take," the defender said. "But fortunately, I had good coaches to guide me along the way."

Four seasons, 77 starting appearances and numerous accolades -- including Pac-10 Player of the Year and the Missouri Athletic Club's Hermann Trophy semifinalist -- all trace the journey of his growth into a player worthy of professional coaches' attention.

After the conclusion of a standout senior season in a Cal jersey, Soares accepted an MLS offer to sign into the League before the Combine and SuperDraft. This left only one stone unturned -- what team he would join in January.

When Jan. 13 rolled around and MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced Soares as the sixth overall selection.

"When I heard my name, I was thrilled and relieved and immediately felt like a Revolution player and proud to be a part of that club," he said.

As the highest-selected player in the Bears' program history, the Solano Beach, Calif., native will move to Boston at the end of the month to join the New England Revolution, under the tutelage of former Liverpool defender, Steve Nicol.

"The Revolution is a famous, successful franchise that is used to winning," Soares said. "That is the exact type of franchise that I wanted to play for."

Despite the forward progression onto a new journey in his soccer career, Soares continues to remember his growth under the tutelage of head coach Kevin Grimes. Grimes not only saw a player selected the highest in Cal history, but the program's most successful draft with five players taken overall.

"It is really a testament to Kevin Grimes - he taught me to play soccer," Soares said of his success in the draft.

Soares was among five seniors who were lucky enough to receive offers from professional teams in the first two rounds of the draft.

After going without a first-round draft pick, the Toronto Football Club selected Demitrius Omphroy No. 26 overall.

Three fullbacks are leaving the Toronto FC roster, allowing Omphroy to vie for a starting position in the back line. Also, Aron Winter's new position at the helm of Toronto's program has led to changes in the team's search for talent and style of play.

"I am definitely looking forward to moving towards this new mold of players and it will be great to have such an amazing mentor right at my fingertips," Omphroy said. "The fact that he is drawn to my playing and style means a lot."

Servando Carrasco, Hector Jimenez and Davis Paul followed Soares and Omphroy to complete the slate of players from Cal selected in the draft.

Carrasco is set to play for the Seattle Sounders, Jimenez for the Los Angeles Galaxy and Paul for the Chicago Fire.

"The best thing our draftees can do for themselves is to use the same mentality that they were taught here at Cal - looking to improve every day of training and enjoy the experience and journey without any added pressure," Grimes said. "It is all about understanding that it is all part of the process and you have to earn your stripes and keep."


Kelly Suckow covers men's soccer. Contact her at [email protected]

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