Toronto FC made Kyle Bekker the highest-ever Canadian pick in the MLS SuperDraft, selecting the midfielder third overall.
After telling any media member that would listen that he was not interested in Oakville, Ont., midfielder Kyle Bekker, Payne - Toronto FC's president and general manager - chose the 22-year-old as his top choice in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft on Thursday.
“Kyle is a player we know well and we rated him among the top players in the draft going into the combine and felt even more strongly after it,” Payne said in a club statement.
Bekker, whose stock shot up on the heels of a superb performance at the MLS Combine, had spent time training with TFC in 2011. His selection was just the first of a flurry of moves by Toronto, as the team looked to maximize a draft in which it had originally also held the first overall pick.
Going into the draft the Reds also held another high first round pick, and after several trades they settled on the 16th overall slot. It is with that selection that Toronto chose Mississauga, Ont., forward Emery Welshman, who had himself turned heads at the combine.
Bekker and Welshman represented TFC's only selections in the draft, and Payne expressed satisfaction with both the selection of the Toronto-area natives and the deals that landed the team allocation funds from three other MLS clubs.
“Our objective was to trade down so we could acquire more assets and we’re happy to accomplish that,” Payne said.
While the new Toronto FC duo were drawing the headlines, other Canadians were also selected on Thursday. Drew Beckie, a defender from the University of Denver and the Canadian U23 side, was taken 28th overall by the Columbus Crew.
Beckie also holds residency in the United States, which surely made him attractive to the Ohio club as he would not take up an international spot.
Another player with dual nationality is defender Kofi Opare, who was taken by the Los Angeles Galaxy. Opare, who has played for the U.S. U20 national team but remains eligible for other nations, played high school soccer in Niagara Falls, Ont. and has Canadian residency.