Alejandro Sucre Picked by Vancouver in MLS Draft
AMHERST, Mass. – When Alejandro Sucre '13 left Venezuela for Amherst four years ago, he had no plans of adding a third country to his list of residences.
If all goes well, by this summer he will have to.
On Tuesday afternoon, Vancouver Whitecaps FC selected the Lord Jeff striker with the 67th overall pick of the Major League Soccer Supplemental Draft, making the Caracas native the first player in Amherst history to be drafted by an MLS club as well as the first Division III student-athlete to be selected since 2009.
"It's a dream come true," Sucre said on Tuesday evening. "I was completely shocked by it and really grateful."
After a breakout junior season in 2011 saw Sucre garner second-team All-New England and All-NESCAC honors, the possibility of a professional career surfaced for the 6-foot-5, 205-pound forward. He began discussing it with head coach Justin Serpone, but once an injury ended his senior season just nine games into the fall, the dream seemed sidelined too.
"I'd been in talks with [Coach Serpone] since the beginning of last year, just looking for opportunities and thinking about it," Sucre said. "He had been talking to people who were potentially interested, including one of the Vancouver assistant coaches, but it slowed down after my ankle injury. I kind of took a break from the conversations."
On Tuesday afternoon, however, what he'd written off as a long-shot chance turned into reality.
"I never really thought it was something that was materializing," Sucre said. "But then I got a call from Coach Serpone that I'd just been drafted."
Back on campus before classes resume on Thursday, the rest of the afternoon was a blur. With Serpone relaying the news to him moments before it appeared online, Sucre was able to pull up the draft tracker in time to see his name emerge alongside those of Division I stars.
"The news came around three o'clock," Sucre said. "The draft was still going on and all of a sudden my name appeared on the draft tracker. They said the 65th and the 66th picks and then the 67th and my name appeared. That's when it became real."
Sucre took his time spreading the news, beginning with those closest to him at Amherst. One of them, of course, was his twin brother, Federico, also a four-year member of the Jeffs.
"I shared it with my girlfriend and then shared it with my brother," Sucre said. "I really wanted to share it with him because he's been such a big part of my soccer experience."
Next the Amherst co-captain contacted his senior teammates. Soon the excitement trickled down to the rest of the team; before long, it had spread via social media to the greater Amherst soccer community.
"All of a sudden I was starting to get emails from a bunch of alumni, guys I hadn't even played with but had gotten to know over the years," Sucre said. "I was also able to talk to my mother and little brother who are back in Venezuela."
For Serpone, the news came as poetic justice after an injury-plagued fall saw Sucre relegated to the role of sideline supporter during Amherst's remarkable undefeated season.
"I couldn't be happier for Alej," Serpone said. "He's one of those guys who's the embodiment of what we aspire to be at Amherst soccer. He got hurt for a good part of the season, was unlucky, but still found a way to make us a better team. It couldn't have happened to a better guy."
Drafted in the fourth and final round of the Supplemental Draft, which followed last week's two-round SuperDraft, Sucre will head to Vancouver after graduating in May and have the chance to play for a contract and a spot on the Whitecap roster. Unlike many Division I players drafted, the Economics and Political Science major – who was a three-time NESCAC All-Academic pick for Amherst – will complete his final semester on campus, time that will also allow him to continue recovering from his injury.
"I got a call from the coach of Vancouver to welcome me into the whole process and clarify what the process is going to be like," said Sucre, who will arrive in British Columbia two months into the MLS season. "I want to get ready, to make sure I'm at my best when I get there."
Often the focal point of Amherst's attacks into the opposing box, Sucre appeared in 49 games over his four year career as a Jeff, tallying 11 goals and nine assists. During his standout 2011 season, the striker ranked sixth in the NESCAC in scoring with six goals and five assists while helping Amherst to its first of two consecutive conference titles and an NCAA Sweet 16 appearance.
Thriving under pressure, Sucre was at his best during the 2011 NESCAC playoffs, tallying a goal and an assist in both the semifinal and championship games. His semifinal strike against Middlebury tied the game 1-1 with less than 10 minutes remaining in regulation before he assisted on the winner in overtime.
As a D-III player and supplemental pick, the odds of earning a job with Vancouver will be against Sucre, but success would not be unprecedented. Current San Jose Earthquakes star Chris Wondolowski – winner of the MLS Golden Boot in 2010 and 2012 as the league's top scorer – was a fourth-round pick in the 2005 Supplemental Draft. And the last D-III player to be drafted, former University of Redlands star Ross Schunk, went on to earn a roster spot and appear in several games for the Colorado Rapids in 2010.
"There aren't too many 6-foot-5 soccer players as athletic as Alej," Serpone said. "You can't teach his size and physicality and he's also improved tremendously over his career with the ball at feet. He's a real handful; he'd be an asset to any team."
Regardless of his future in Vancouver, Sucre's selection adds another exclamation point to a historic period of success for an Amherst program which saw Julien Aoyama '14, Spencer Noon '13 and Chris Lerner '13 each honored as All-Americans this fall.
"We have terrific student-athletes that have really made a commitment to Amherst soccer," Serpone said. "To see them get recognized means so much. It's another step into what we're trying to become as a program. Between Alej getting drafted and having three All-Americans, it means people are paying attention. It's a byproduct of doing things the right way. It's not the goal, but it's a yardstick that says we're doing things well."
Only time will tell just how far Sucre will be able to carry his skills honed at Amherst. For now, he will simply focus on continuing to rehab his ankle, striving for a return to peak form by late May. And while Tuesday's excitement was something he'll never forget, he knows that it will take great daily effort to achieve a dream that has now grown roots.
"It's really, really exciting to think about the possibility of joining the Vancouver Whitecaps and starting a professional soccer career," he said. "I'm trying to take the moment and enjoy it today, but tomorrow it's back to work in the gym."