ST. LOUIS -- The expansion Seattle Sounders FC took Steve Zakuani out of Akron with the first pick in the MLS SuperDraft on Thursday, rather than opt for a defender who might make an immediate impression.
The 20-year-old Zakuani led the nation with 20 goals and 27 points this season as a sophomore. He was Soccer America's player of the year and was a finalist for the Hermann Trophy given to the top NCAA Division I player.
"It's harder to impact things offensively than it is to destroy things defensively as a rookie," coach Sigi Schmid said. "But to find a player who's got that ability to be special, you've got to jump at that.
"I've seen him take his team on his back, and we expect him to be able to do that in the pros."
Zakuani will start his pro career with a franchise set to begin play in March. Schmid was hired as coach last month, three weeks after leading the Columbus Crew to the MLS championship.
"I told those close to me that if I could pick one team it would be Seattle just because they're a new team and I like the team a lot," Zakuani said. "So for that to happen is amazing.
"I know it's going to be a season that's going to be buzzing and I just want to be a part of it from the start."
Another Hermann Trophy finalist, Wake Forest midfielder Sam Cronin, went to Toronto FC with the second pick. Cronin had 10 goals and four assists his senior season.
"I didn't come in with really any expectations, I'm just excited to be here and soak it all in," Cronin said. "To be the second pick and going to Toronto, I couldn't be happier."
Cronin sported a fresh wound on draft day after an elbow to the mouth during the final day of the MLS Combine resulted in 10 stitches.
"Almost made it," Cronin said. "I went up for a header, caught an elbow and sliced it pretty good. I won the ball, though."
The Los Angeles Galaxy took defender Omar Gonzalez of national champion Maryland with the third pick. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound Gonzalez was the most outstanding defensive player in the NCAA College Cup.
Now, Gonzalez will be one of David Beckham's teammates.
"Obviously with Beckham being there, I'm sure that I'll learn a lot from him and from all the players there," Gonzalez said. "I'm just really excited."
Three Maryland players were taken in the first round, the second time it's happened in league history and the first time one school's had three since UCLA also had three in 2000. DC United took midfielder Rodney Wallace with the sixth pick and midfielder Jeremy Hall went to the New York Red Bulls with the 11th selection.
Wake Forest had two first-rounders, with midfielder Michael Lahoud taken by Chivas USA with the ninth pick, and Seattle made a third Demon Deacon, defender Evan Brown, the first pick of the second round.
Toronto had two of the first four picks, also taking Connecticut forward O'Brian White with the fourth overall selection.