Friday, July 3, 2015

Philadelphia Union pick West Virginia defender and Yardley native Eric Schoenle in Major League Soccer Supplemental Draft

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Eric Schoenle. (Photo courtesy of West Virginia University)
Eric Schoenle. (Photo courtesy of West Virginia University)

Eric Schoenle is coming home to play for the Philadelphia Union.

The Yardley, Pa., native and product of Pennsbury High was one of five players selected by the Union in this year’s Major League Soccer Supplemental Draft.

Schoenle is a 6-foot-2 central defender who had a standout college career at West Virginia. He played for Reading United, the Union's amateur Premier Development League affiliate, in 2010. As such, he will be well-acquainted with Union assistant coach Brendan Burke, who is also in charge of Reading.

Many observers of college soccer expected Schoenle to be taken in last week’s SuperDraft, but he slipped through the cracks. When the Union got the opportunity to take him with the 12th pick of the Supplemental Draft, they pounced.

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In essence, the Supplemental Draft constitutes the third through sixth rounds of MLS’ college draft process. But while the two-round SuperDraft is conducted on a glitzy, made-for-television stage, the Supplemental Draft is conducted by conference call.

That made for a frenetic Tuesday afternoon, as picks were announced thick and fast. At the end of the day, the Union emerged with a total of five players.

After taking Schoenle, the Union selected Liberty defender Uriah Bentick with the 17th overall selection. Bentick is a 6-foot-2 native of Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, and played a few games in 2009 and 2011 with Trinidad and Tobago youth national teams.

In the second round, the Union selected Princeton defender Mark Linville with the 24th overall pick. The native of Boone, N.C., was a first team All-Ivy League honoree this past season. He will find a familiar face at PPL Park in fellow former Tiger Antoine Hoppenot.

The Union’s final two selections came from America East conference schools: Binghamton forward Jake Keegan (No. 43 overall) and Stony Brook midfielder Leo Fernandes (No. 62 overall).

Fernandes played for Reading United this past summer. So as with Schoenle, he'll have some familiarity with the Union's coaching staff when he arrives here.

"We felt that both [Schoenle and Fernandes] could potentially fill supporting roles in their respective positions," Burke said. "Both proved very effective for us during their time in Reading in those same positions."

A few hours after the draft was conducted, the Union revealed that three additional players are on trial with the team.

The most familiar name to MLS fans is likely to be 19-year-old midfielder Charles Renken. He spent last year with the Portland Timbers, and prior to that was in the youth system of German club TSG Hoffenheim. That's the same club where Union midfielder Zach Pfeffer is currently on a one-year loan.

In addition to his club career, Renken has experience with United States youth national teams up to the under-20 level.

At the other end of the age spectrum is 30-year-old Argentine midfielder Nicolas Medina. He has spent most of his career in his native country's league, but from 2001 to 2004 played for English Premier League club Sunderland. Medina was part of the 2004 Argentina under-23 national team that won gold at the Athens Olympics.

The third trialist is goalkeeper Tunde Ogunbiyi. He is a native of Gwynedd and product of Wissahickon High School who has played for Ocean City (N.J.) FC in the Premier Development League, and recently spent time training with English Premier League club Reading.

Four years ago, Ogunbiyi was invited by the Nigerian Football Association to try out for the team that went on to play at the Beijing Olympics. He didn't make the cut, but just being invited proved to be enough of a story that The Inquirer wrote this lengthy profile on his exploits.

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