Jan. 20, 2006
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - It appears Mehdi Ballouchy's decision to forgo his senior season at Santa Clara University to turn professional was a good one.
Real Salt Lake made the first-team All-America and West Coast Conference Player of the Year the second overall pick and the first midfielder selected today in the Major League Soccer SuperDraft at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
A native of Casablanca, Morocco, Ballouchy is the highest Bronco ever taken in the draft and the sixth Santa Clara player to be selected in the first round. In 2004, Ryan Cochrane and Steve Cronin were both picked in the first round. Paul Bravo (1996), Albertin Montoya (1997) and Jason Annicchero (1997) were also first round selections. For a complete listing of SCU's all-time draft picks in MLS, click here.
"I am really happy for Mehdi and I am pleased to see that he will be playing for a coach and an organization that I have complete trust in," said SCU head coach Cameron Rast. "It was a difficult decision for Mehdi to leave school early and enter the SuperDraft. To be selected so high in the draft is a tremendous honor for Mehdi and shows a great deal of respect for our program.
"Of course, there will be adjustments to his game that Mehdi will have to make as he enters the professional game. But, they are the same type of adjustments he would have made had he stayed at Santa Clara for his senior season. John (Ellinger) and his staff will continue to work with Mehdi and give him the best opportunity to develop to his fullest ability."
Real Salt Lake, in its second year in Major League Soccer, is coached by John Ellinger. No stranger to the Santa Clara program, Ellinger coached Rast on the U.S. National "B" Team in 1993 in a pair of friendly matches in Trinidad. The two also coached together from 1998-2001 with the U-17 U.S. National Team.
A two-time All-America at Santa Clara after playing his first season at Creighton, where he was a Freshman All-America selection in 2002, Ballouchy was a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy last season and was considered one of the most creative and technical players in the college game.
Ballouchy, 22, is classified by MLS as a youth international player, which is a non-domestic player (i.e., non-U.S. citizen and non-green card holder) who is 24 years old or younger during the season in question. At the beginning of the year in which the player is due to reach the age of 25, Ballouchy will be re-classified as a senior international. Each team is allowed up to four senior international players on its roster.
"A big part of Mehdi's decision to turn professional was the simple fact that he is 22-year-old and his classification with MLS will change in a pretty short period of time," said Rast. "He will now have a chance to come into MLS, play two seasons as a youth international and have more control over his career. Had he waited until next year, there was a chance that he would not have had that same control over his destiny."