INDIANAPOLIS -- For the New England Revolution, it was Andrew Farrell or bust.
The Revolution made waves Wednesday after acquiring the first overall pick in Thursday's MLS SuperDraft from Toronto FC, and after choosing the highly-rated Farrell with that selection, the club made it quite obvious who they felt was the best player in this year's draft class. The Revolution felt compelled to make the deal to land the mohawked Farrell, who Revs coach Jay Heaps said was a sizable leap above the rest of his counterparts.
"That's the best way to assess it," Heaps said. "We just felt that he was a consensus No. 1 across from a lot of different feelings going into the draft. He's carried that in college, a lot of people were labeling him as a No. 1 pick. He carried that pressure well, and those are important things. He also backed that up with a solid combine. When you're asked to perform at the level he's had to perform in the spotlight, that also shows a bit of character."
The deal, which Toronto FC president Kevin Payne said was agreed to on Tuesday, cost the Revolution an undisclosed amount of allocation money and the fourth overall pick in the draft. At the fourth position, the Revolution could have selected someone along the likes of Furman and U.S. Under-20 center back Walker Zimmerman or Indiana's Eriq Zavaleta, who, like Farrell, were members of this year's Generation adidas class. For Heaps and general manager Michael Burns, that was not an option.
"The decision was either go up and get the guy you know is someone that you've tracked and feel will be a part of your team right away, or move down and see what else you can get," Heaps said.
The Revs opted for the former, landing a physical, versatile defender from a solid college program. The bar has been set pretty high for defensive rookies coming out of the University of Louisville. Austin Berry turned in a Rookie of the Year-worthy 2012 season after a collegiate career as a member of the Cardinals, and the Revolution are looking for a Berry 2.0 impact from Farrell.
"Farrell was someone I tracked pretty closely in college, a little bit at the end of last year, and then this season quite a bit," Heaps said. "I thought he showed that he has the ability at the next level. He's versatile, he's strong, he understands the game, he's a great passing defender. We want defenders that can defend and play, it's as simple as that."
In order for Farrell to follow in Berry's footsteps, he'll need to integrate himself into a defensive unit that too often suffered lapses and was beaten on set pieces repeatedly. Farrell's ability in the air makes him an ideal candidate to be a right-sided center back, but he played at right back and defensive midfield at Louisville as well, and Heaps will wait before determining where he fits into the Revolution formation.
"I've liked him at all three positions I've seen him play," said Heaps, a former defensive standout in his playing days. "I'll try him at center back and right back first, and we'll see where it goes. I want to see him closer at right back. I think he's a really good center back, and I want to see his strengths as a right back.
"I think he matches up physically just fine. He's not going to be the overbearing Omar Gonzalez, but he's a physical presence. He's never been out-manned in any game I've seen."
The soft spoken, humbled Farrell will have loads of expectations to deliver on the promise that comes with being the top overall pick, perhaps more so because of what New England yielded to acquire his services. He'll also have to earn his place on the field, with competition for places in New England's back line growing after the signing of Portuguese central defender Jose Goncalves.
"I'll player wherever, I'll play goalkeeper if he wants me to do that," Farrell said. "I'm just excited to be part of a great organization and start on Monday."
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