The player with the most appearances in USF Men's Soccer history, left back Ben Sweat, was chosen with the 14th pick in this year's MLS SuperDraft on Thursday by the Columbus Crew. Sweat was a highly regarded prospect going into the draft and it was kind of a surprise to see him drop so low (there are only 19 picks in the first round). Before the MLS Combine he was projected to go as high as #6, but his draft stock fell considerably (some put him as low as #19) due to a mediocre showing in said Combine. Regardless he was still regarded as the top left back available.
Sweat's great pace and size (6'2" and 175 pounds) makes him a great threat going forward and difficult to beat in one on one situations. That deadly combo is what made him such a highly rated player and why he was so important for the Bulls. In his four years here, he started in nearly every single game (78 appearances total) and helped the team post 30 clean sheets. In his senior year he was named to the All-AAC First Team while leading the team to their seventh straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
Columbus is desperate for help on the defensive side of things, as they had the sixth worse defense in terms of goals allowed (giving up 46) and finished 16th overall in the league. They recently traded away long-time defender and captain Chad Marshall, who led the Crew's defenders in games played this past season (with 30) and had been a staple with the team since 2004. The Crew have also added four other defensive players- most notably U.S. Men's National Team player Michael Parkhurst (23 USMNT caps, 8 last year). Parkhurst left MLS five years ago to go to Europe and played in Denmark and most recently the German Bundesliga, with FC Augsburg.
All along the Crew wanted to get Sweat. Here is a tweet from the owner of the club indicating they probably would've drafted him #4 (their original position before a trade).
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Gregg got his man. Welcome to the Crew Ben Sweat! Likely would have taken him at 4th overall, a win for us. <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23crew96&src=hash">#crew96</a></p>— Anthony Precourt (@APrecourt) <a href="https://twitter.com/APrecourt/statuses/423884443665719296">January 16, 2014</a></blockquote>
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"We see in three years he could be a starter in MLS," said Head Coach Gregg Berhalter. "We got an exciting player. Ben is a very dynamic player that likes to get up and down the wing. He has a good left foot, good crossing of the ball, good offensive skills. He was very high on our board and he represented a great value in terms of quality versus where he was being drafted. It was something we couldn't pass-up."
Even well-respected commentator Alexi Lalas was impressed by this selection. "I like this player a lot. I think he understands his position. I think he understands when to go forward, when not to go forward," said Lalas. "He also, first and foremost, enjoys defending. Just because you can bomb forward doesn't mean you have to go forward."
Bulls fans who have followed his career for the past four years might get a chance to see him play professionally sooner than they think. Columbus is set to play a series of pre-season exhibition matches in Florida as part of the Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic in February and will train in Bradenton at the IMG Academy starting January 26th. Also if Sweat doesn't make the first team he could be sent to their USL Pro affiliate, the Dayton Dutch Lions, and play against Orlando City this upcoming season.