Mikey Lopez potential top pick in MLS draft
As seniors fill out job applications and make preparations to move to new cities, one UNC student — a sophomore — doesn’t have the luxury of choosing his destination.
UNC midfielder Mikey Lopez has signed a contract with Generation adidas, a program that aims to develop elite youth soccer talent in the U.S. while providing grants for players to continue their education later. He will wait to hear his name called by any of the 18 teams who have picks in Major League Soccer’s SuperDraft today.
“It’s tough not knowing where you’re going,” he said. “I just want to get this over with so I know where I’ll be heading, so I can wrap my head around that city.”
TopDrawerSoccer.com rates Lopez, a Mission, Texas, native, as the top prospect available in the draft, regardless of team need.
After UNC lost to Indiana 1-0 in the NCAA quarterfinals, Lopez signed the Generation adidas contract.
“At first I didn’t want to go cause I hated losing here,” Lopez said. “I didn’t want to go out like that, losing to Indiana, but I talked to my dad, and we decided that it was time for me to move on and go make that next step and start my career as a professional.”
Lopez recorded three goals and four assists as a freshman and took home ACC Freshman of the Year honors. In his sophomore campaign, Lopez notched only two goals and one assist, but coach Carlos Somoano remembered both goals fondly. One was a game-winner in overtime against Wofford and the other, against Clemson, was featured on SportsCenter’s top plays.
Somoano said Lopez most likely won’t be remembered at UNC for his scoring, but for his explosiveness on the field as a box-to-box player.
“He really captures your eye when you’re watching the game because he plays very aggressive, and he can cover a lot of ground,” Somoano said. “He’s above average, good at just about everything. He doesn’t have a significant weakness in his game.
Lopez has a busy week ahead of him, as he will leave for Mexico today to join the U.S. U-20 men’s soccer team, which he said has helped prepare him for competition against professionals.
Junior Jordan McCrary met Lopez when he was 14 and has been Lopez’s teammate on the U.S. U-15, U-17 and U-20 teams. McCrary said Lopez has improved his ability to take control of the game since he arrived at UNC.
“You’ll never see him give up on a ball,” McCrary said. “You can always just count and depend on him to make a big play for you.”
Earlier this week, MLSSoccer.com reported that Lopez wanted to be selected by Chivas USA, but Lopez said he was misunderstood.
“I just want to go to some place that they want me and they are thinking about having me start or go in and help the team immediately — not have me as a project,” Lopez said.
UNC used Lopez primarily as a central midfielder, but Lopez’s role could change in MLS despite his hope that it will remain the same.
“Hopefully the team that chooses me is thinking the same way and will want me to play that same position,” he said.
Somoano called the decision that faces Lopez’s next coach on where to play him “the million-dollar question,” but he expressed a hope that Lopez’s skills will be used properly.
Lopez is the second UNC player to sign a Generation adidas contract in two years after Enzo Martinez signed last year and was drafted 17th by Real Salt Lake.
Somoano credited former players for impressing MLS scouts, but he said the program has done well to get the most out of its players.
For those who will miss Lopez’s presence as a Tar Heel, there is hope.
McCrary said he’s heard Lopez’s younger brother, Andy, is even more talented.
The younger Lopez is two years away from Division I competition and has verbally committed to become a Tar Heel.
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