At the beginning of the year, six players from the UNC-Chapel Hill men’s soccer team were awarded the opportunity to play for Major League Soccer, the United States’ professional soccer league.

“It’s a tremendous reward for our players. They deserve it,” assistant coach Carlos Somoano says.

Four players were selected in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft in Baltimore, Md. in January. Senior defender Jalil Anibaba was taken ninth overall by the Chicago Fire. “I was very excited because the draft is a very stressful time,” Anibaba says. “It’s a dream come true, and it’s a moment I’ve been waiting for my whole life.”

Anibaba, who will join a team captained by former Tar Heel Logan Pause, was named MVP of the 2011 pre-draft PlayerCombine. “It was an honor to be seen as the MVP when you’re participating in an event with such great players,” he says. “It’s humbling.”

Eddie Ababio, a senior outside defender, was selected 18th overall by the Colorado Rapids, the defending MLS Cup champions. Anibaba and Ababio are the eighth and ninth Tar Heels ever picked in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft.

Michael Farfan was taken 24th overall, by the Philadelphia Union. The back-to-back All-American midfielder will join former Tar Heel Sheanon Williams with the Union.

Stephen McCarthy, also a midfielder, was selected immediately after Farfan by the New England Revolution. Despite being one of the four Tar Heels selected in the draft, McCarthy did not enjoy the draft experience. “It was terrible,” he says. “For guys that go top 10, it was probably a great experience. For me, it was a pretty nerve-wracking experience.”

However, McCarthy isn’t intimidated by being the first Tar Heel drafted by the Revolution and has not felt any extra pressure. “I just try to do the best I can,” he says.

In order to perform at his best, McCarthy has had to make adjustments to the higher standard of professional play. “It’s been pretty nuts,” McCarthy says. “It’s a whole new level of intensity. After practice, all I want to do is sleep.”

Somano says the Carolina program is known for creating great players. “We have a tradition here of pushing our guys to be great. When you create an environment like (Carolina), players will become great,” Somoano says.

Two other Tar Heels were added to MLS rosters following the SuperDraft. Senior midfielder Dustin McCarthy was selected by the Los Angeles Galaxy in the 2011 MLS Supplemental Draft, a secondary draft held after the SuperDraft. A day later, Alex Dixon, a junior midfielder, signed a contract with the Houston Dynamo.

Carolina is now tied for the fourth-most players drafted in MLS history, with McCarthy as the 33rd Tar Heel ever selected in the MLS SuperDraft.  “There’s a tradition (at Carolina) consistent in winning and producing professional soccer players,” assistant coach Jeff Negalha says.

So, what’s next for these Tar Heels?

“As a rookie, you have to be open to anything, including playing new positions. I just want to do whatever I can to help the team,” Anibaba says.

Left to right: Jalil Anibaba, Defender; Eddie Ababio, Defender/Forward; Michael Farfan, Midfielder; Stephen McCarthy, Midfielder

-Will Rimer

Photo Source: tarheelblue.com