Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Spokane's Ramos chosen by Toronto FC in MLS SuperDraft

Spokane native Mike Ramos capped a fantastic year in which he led the Spokane Shadow to the Evergreen Premier League title and Whitworth University to the Northwest Conference championship with his selection Tuesday in the third round of the Major League Soccer SuperDraft.

The striker was taken 50th overall, eighth in the third round, by Toronto FC in the four-round even that began with the first two rounds held at the NSCAA Convention in Philadelphia last Thursday and finished with the second half via teleconference call. Looking for talent up top, Ramos was the first of three strikers the club chose on the day. In the first two rounds they chose a goalkeeper, three defenders and another forward.

"Words cannot explain what I'm feeling right now. So thankful for this gift from god," Ramos said after his selection.

A former standout at Walla Walla CC (2009-10) and Seattle University (2011), he re-ignited his professional aspirations playing for the Spokane Shadow of EPLWA over the summer, leading the team to the league's inaugural championship and finishing second in EPLWA scoring with 11 goals.

The revival led to his return to the collegiate game as he joined the hometown program at Whitworth. He led the team in scoring with 14 goals and 12 assists and was named the conference player of the year along with numerous other awards, including NSCAA All-American honors.

"I went through some tough times," Ramos added about his life and career. "The men's Shadow team this summer, along with Whitworth, have helped me continue to mature into the player I am today, noting that his Seely Soccer Academy, run by former longtime Shadow player Tim Seely, was also a key ingredient in his development as a youth player.

Ramos is the fifth player hailing from or that played in Spokane taken in MLS draft history. Future MLS Cup champion and US international Brian Ching (Gonzaga University) was chosen in the 2001 SuperDraft 16th overall by the Los Angeles Galaxy. His longtime MLS teammate Craig Waibel, after two pro seasons in Seattle, was also taken later in the draft, 31st overall, by the San Jose Earthquakes. Defender Billy Sleeth (Ferris HS / U of Washington) was taken 10th overall the following year by the Chicago Fire, which also selected defender Austin Washington (Ferris / Gonzaga U) was chosen 54th overall in the fourth round of the 2008 draft. He would be the eighth player to take the field in MLS that played in Spokane.

Ramos joins a club looking to build under new coach Greg Vanney, who was appointed midseason at the end of August as the team struggled through an 11-15-8 season in which they finished seventh in the Eastern Conference, 13th overall, and were eight points shy of the postseason. The club went just 2-5-2 under Vanney to finish the campaign. Though they missed the playoffs, it was the team's best win total in league play since its debut in 2007 and best overall finish since 2010.

The transition process has seen a lot of changes for the side this offseason, the biggest being the recent swap with Sunderland of the English Premier League in which they exchanged Jermain Defoe for US international Jozy Altidore. Among other moves, the club brought in forward Robbie Findley and arranged the addition of former Italian youth international and Juventus striker Sebastian Giovinco for this July as a designated player.

Ramos could be returning to Washington with Toronto FC on September 5 with their lone trip to the northwest in 2015, a meeting with the Seattle Sounders.

With a number of forwards already on the roster and three others taken in the draft, Ramos will have plenty of competition in earning a roster spot when training convenes this spring. In November, the club announced the launch of an official full reserve side that will play in USL Pro, the third division, under the guidance of head coach Jason Bent, a longtime professional and former Canadian international.

The new Toronto FC reserve side is one of seven such MLS second teams that will be playing in USL Pro. The Los Angeles Galaxy II were the first team to operate in such fashion, finishing third in the league last year and reaching the semifinals before falling 3-2 to the eventual champion Sacramento Republic. Also adding second teams in 2015 are Montreal Impact, Portland Timbers, Real Salt Lake, Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps. The remainder of the MLS clubs that do not have second teams are affiliating with independent USL clubs in the 27-team league.

Spokane Players in Major League Soccer

F - Brian Ching (Gonzaga University 1996-00 / Spokane Shadow 1998-99)

Taken 16th overall in the 2001 draft by the Los Angeles Galaxy, he made minimal appearances for the team and spent time on loan with the USL Seattle Sounders. He helped the team win the 2001 US Open Cup before he was waived in 2002. He signed with the Sounders, guiding them to the regular season title before returning to MLS with San Jose Earthquakes in 2003. The Earthquakes, who won MLS Cup in 2003, would eventually move in 2006 to Houston, where the newly-named Dynamo would go on to win two MLS Cups. During his career, he earned his way onto the US National Team (45 caps), making the squad for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. He was a six-time MLS All-Star and a Best XI choice in 2004, a season in which he won the Golden Boot as the leading scorer and was named the Comeback Player of the Year. He was the MLS Cup MVP in 2006 and won numerous club awards with the Earthquakes/Dynamo before retiring after the 2013 season in which he also served on the coaching staff. He remained with the organization and is the managing director of the National Women's Soccer League team, Houston Dash.

G - Chris Eylander (Spokane Shadow 2004 / U of Washington 2002-05)

He joined the USL Sounders in 2006 and would remain with the club, making one MLS appearance in place of suspended Kasey Keller in 2009.

M/F - Zach Kingsley (Shadle Park HS / U of Washington) 

Signed by the Colorado Rapids in 2002, appearing in 29 games for the club and scoring four goals from 2002-04. He also played seven games for the second division Seattle Sounders in 2002 in the USL First Division before being acquired by Colorado via a trade.

D - Zach Scott (Gonzaga University 1998-01)

After a standout career with the USL Sounders from 2002-08 with two regular season and playoff championships each, he made the transition with the club to MLS and is still a member of the squad, helping guide them to their fourth US Open Cup championship and their first regular season MLS title in 2014.

D - Billy Sleeth (Ferris HS / U of Washington 1998-01 / Spokane Shadow 1999)

The 10th overall pick in 2002, Sleeth would make 18 appearances in all competitions for the Fire in his rookie campaign and was later signed by the Colorado Rapids in 2003, but did not see the field. He finished his career with the USL Seattle Sounders, making over 35 appearances in 2004-05.

D - Craig Waibel (Lewis & Clark HS / U of Washington 1995-98 / Spokane Shadow 1996-98) 

Originally playing for the USL Seattle Sounders out of college in 1999, he would make his first MLS appearances (2) on loan with the Colorado Rapids in 2000. He would be taken in the 2001 MLS SuperDraft by the San Jose Earthquakes only to sign as a discovery play with the LA Galaxy after being waived a month after the draft. He spent time with the Sounders on loan the first two seasons while making over 20 appearances with the Galaxy, who won the US Open Cup, MLS Cup and MLS Supporters' Shield in that span. After being waived, he returned to San Jose, where he become a regular starter in the league and the team. The Earthquakes, who won MLS Cup in 2003, would eventually move in 2006 to Houston, where the newly-named Dynamo would go on to win two MLS Cups before he retired in 2010. After a quickly advancing collegiate coaching career, he joined the Real Salt Lake coaching staff in 2014 and was promoted to technical director for 2015.

D - Austin Washington (Ferris HS / Whitworth 2004, Gonzaga U 2005-07 / Spokane Shadow 2004-05, Spokane Spiders 2007) 

Drafted by the Chicago Fire 54th overall (fourth round) in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft, he spent two years with the club and made 15 appearances in all competitions.

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