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Whitecaps select Dean and Montreal take Miller in MLS Draft

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The Canadian Press
1/16/2014 5:40:15 PM
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VANCOUVER -- For at least a few hours, the Vancouver Whitecaps could put the Camilo Sanvezzo saga aside.

As their best player continued to orchestrate his dramatic exit from the club, the Whitecaps added size and creativity at Thursday's Major League Soccer SuperDraft.

Vancouver had two picks in the first seven, selecting defender Christian Dean at No. 3 before taking midfielder Andre Lewis at No. 7.

"Being selected is a dream come true," said Dean. "Especially a team on the West Coast, growing up in California ... (Vancouver is) close to home."

Hearing a player actually wanting to be at the club should come as welcome news for fans of the Whitecaps, who are now resigned to the fact that Sanvezzo -- the 2013 MLS Golden Boot winner -- will be sold to a Mexican team after forcing Vancouver's hand.

And it's not only Dean who is happy about his new team.

"My mom is ecstatic," he added. "I think she's happier than I am."

The 20-year-old from East Palo Alto was selected using the pick Vancouver acquired in the July 2012 trade that sent striker Eric Hassli to Toronto FC. Dean spent the last three seasons with the NCAA's California Golden Bears, starting all 55 games he played.

"I bring energy. Big, athletic, on the larger side," said Dean, who stands six foot three and weighs 198 pounds. "Good feet -- especially at centre back, I kind of pride my self a little bit on that. It's something that I like to use to my advantage."

The Philadelphia Union traded up to take Connecticut goalkeeper Andre Blake with the first pick before the D.C. United used the second pick to select defender Steve Birnbaum, who was Dean's college teammate at Cal.

"I don't know much about Philly," said Blake, who originally hails from Jamaica. "I heard something yesterday about how it's the place for a cheesesteak or something. That's as much as I know. But I'm pretty sure I'll get adjusted and learn everything I need to know."

Meanwhile, the Montreal Impact took Creighton defender Eric Miller with the fifth pick, while Toronto FC traded up to draft Xavier defender Nick Hagglund at No. 10.

Left-footed with the ability to play either in the centre or left of defence, Dean said he will have to increase the physical side of his game against MLS competition.

"I think I will have to adapt. College was a physical game, especially stepping up from the youth level to college, it got more physical," he said on a conference call. "I think playing against bigger and stronger people, I'll have to become a lot more physical and to do that I'll just have to make a little mental jump to achieve that."

Dean might just get that chance as Vancouver's backline has at least one hole heading into training camp next month with the retirement of Y.P. Lee. Meanwhile, Jay DeMerit doesn't have a contract for 2014, but new head coach Carl Robinson has said he wants to bring his captain back into the fold.

"I think I'm ready to come in and play, wherever I would have ended up," said Dean, who played as a centre back in college this season after two years on the left. "Especially with Vancouver, coming in the defence will be something that will be a possibility for me."

Robinson said the Whitecaps had Dean rated high on their draft board.

"He's a great athlete with a fantastic left foot and we believe he has massive upside," Robinson said in a release. "We are confident that Christian's game will translate very well to MLS and we look forward to seeing him at camp."

Dean has never been to Vancouver and said that he wasn't tipped off during pre-draft discussions with the club that the Whitecaps would be his destination.

"I talked to the coaching staff while I was at the combine during one of the player meetings and hit it off," he said. "Other than that there was no real talk of 'Hey, we'll select you' or stuff like that.

"It was kind of a bit of a surprise, but in the end I'm happy that I got picked by Vancouver."

Lewis was also pleased to be joining the Whitecaps, but for different reasons.

"I'm a fan of Vancouver because of Darren Mattocks," the 19-year-old said of the Whitecaps striker and fellow Jamaican. "I love the support that the fans give to Vancouver. I'm looking forward to starting my professional career with the Whitecaps and to just go there and work hard and do my best."

Lewis said he and Mattocks live about 10 minutes apart but that pair didn't speak about the possibility of being teammates in MLS.

The five-foot-nine, 145-pound midfielder, who will join the Whitecaps from Jamaican club Portmore United F.C., has represented his country at the under-17 and under-20 levels and earned his first senior call up in 2012.

"On the pitch, I always want to be a top player," said Lewis. "Win or lose, I want to be on top of my game at all times."

Notes: As a Generation Adidas player, Dean's salary will not count against the MLS salary cap. ... Dean said he is friends with Whitecaps striker Omar Salgado from their time with the U.S. under-20 team. ... In the second round, Toronto selected Elon midfielder Daniel Lovitz at No. 24, Vancouver took Connecticut striker Mamadou Diouf at No. 30 and Montreal went with Cal Poly midfielder George Malki at No. 37.

Christian Dean (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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