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Three Aztex Players Taken in MLS SuperDraft

Austin Aztex players go early in today's Major League Soccer draft
Nick Barbaro, 3:44pm, Thu. Jan. 17, 2013
Kekuta Manneh: we knew him before he was a star
Three players off of last year's Austin Aztex roster were among the first 11 picks of today's MLS SuperDraft. Gambian native Kekuta Manneh (Lake Travis High) was taken by the Vancouver Whitecaps with the fourth pick. Midfielder Blake Smith (Boerne, U. of New Mexico) went eighth to Montreal, and Dillon Powers (Plano, Notre Dame) went 11th to Columbus.

Manneh, who just turned 18 on Dec. 30, was a star attacker for the Aztex last year, scoring 10 goals to tie Kris Tyrpak for the team lead. He came here from Gambia in 2010, as part of a development program set up in that country by youth soccer giant Rush Soccer. He was the first forward taken in the draft, and clearly, a lot is expected of him. He's got crazy ball skills, enough pace and balance to work himself free, and a nose for the goal. At 140 pounds, the biggest question may be whether he has the stamina to thrive in a league better known for its physical play than for its artistry.

Midfielders Powers and Smith are more in the typical MLS mold – both came out of Texas high schools and excelled at major universities – though they're quite different styles of player. Powers is a bulldog central midfielder and was a two-time captain for the Fighting Irish, one of the elite programs in the country. Smith is a speedy, left-footed outside midfielder, who really blossomed at UNM the last couple of seasons. Neither played a major role with the Aztex last year – appearing in just two games each – but it should be noted that both had breakout senior seasons this past fall, following their stays with the Aztex and their coaching staff. That's got to be a feather in the cap of head coach Paul Dalglish, and a positive talking point in recruiting future young players. Way to go, team.

And, happy birthday, Blake – he turns 22 today.

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