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Impact, Whitecaps take Canadian forwards in MLS SuperDraft

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The Canadian Press
1/21/2014 5:01:21 PM
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TORONTO -- The Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact both picked up Canadian strikers as the MLS SuperDraft concluded Tuesday with the third and fourth rounds.

The Whitecaps used the first pick of the fourth round -- 58th overall -- to take MacKenzie Pridham, a Toronto-born forward from Cal Poly.

The Impact chose Edmonton forward Jordan Ongaro 67th overall from San Diego State.

The 23-year-old Pridham is Cal Poly's all-time leading scorer with 27 goals and the first to repeat as Big West Offensive Player of the Year since current Seattle Sounders midfielder Brad Evans did it as a UC Irvine standout.

Pridham finished sixth among Division I players with 0.70 goals per match, eighth with 14 goals and 10th with 31 points. Those numbers might have been higher had the Mustangs made the NCAA tournament or had Pridham avoided a late-season ankle injury (he was second in NCAA goal-scoring when he went down).

Pridham, who trained with Toronto FC last summer, ranks second all-time in Cal Poly points (58) and multi-goal games (five) and eighth in appearances (70).

"One of the hardest-working players I've seen," said Vancouver manager Carl Robinson.

"His goal-scoring record (25 goals) over the last two years has been fantastic," he added. "I was pleasantly surprised I was able to pick him up today."

The 22-year-old Ongaro led the Pac-12 in goals this season with 10, ranked second in points (21) and goals per match (0.53), and third in points per match (1.11). He was a first-team all-Pac 12 section.

The Canadian under-17 and under-20 player is the nephew of Ross Ongaro, a former indoor player and coach of note whose soccer resume includes stints as Canadian beach and futsal coach.

The Whitecaps also took a pair of midfielders from the New Mexico Lobos in 22-year-old Ghanaian Michael Kafari, in the third round, and 25-year-old Costa Rican Michael Calderon, in the fourth.

Calderon excelled at the recent MLS Combine, ranking second in chances created, according to Opta Sports.

The Vancouver draft picks from New Mexico have Whitecaps connections. Both were Lobos teammates with midfielder Ben McKendry, a product of the Whitecaps residency program. And Kafari played with Whitecaps midfielder-forward Kekuta Manneh at the Austin Aztex of USL PDL.

Robinson said the intel from McKendry on the two Lobos was nothing but positive.

"They're good players, that's the be-all and end-all of it," Robinson added.

He sees the five-foot-eight Calderon as a No. 10, a creative player who can unlock defences.

"As a club last year, that's what we missed," he said.

Kafari, a more deep-lying midfielder, has a U.S. passport so would count as a domestic player. Calderon counts as an international but Robinson said the player is getting married, which may impact his status.

Robinson said he had expected Calderon to go higher in the draft, theorizing that perhaps some were turned off by his age.

"It definitely wasn't a turnoff for me because technically you can see he has a lot of attacking qualities in him."

Vancouver added a 2014 international spot in a deal that sent a third-round pick, 45th overall, to the Columbus Crew. The Whitecaps have 11 international roster spots, 10 of which are currently being used, through the 2014 season.

Robinson said getting the international spot gives the team the security of knowing it can accommodate one of its overseas targets.

The Impact picked up forward Pete Caringi from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, with their third-round pick.

The 21-year-old won the Golden Boot in the PDL in 2013 with 16 goals in 12 games for the Baltimore Bohemians. He played four seasons with the UMBC Retrievers, scoring 37 goals and adding 17 assists in 79 games.

"Blessed to be drafted by (at)impactmontreal," tweeted Caringi.

Toronto FC, which did not have a third-round pick, selected Rutgers forward Kene Eze in the fourth round, 60th overall, on the New Jersey native's 22nd birthday.

Eze led the Scarlet Knights with eight goals this season despite missing six games due to injury. He finished his collegiate career with 22 goals and eight assists.

MLS SuperDraft (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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