The San Jose Earthquakes selected Fatai Alashe with the fourth pick of the first round of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft. The Michigan State midfielder did not play at the recent MLS Combine, but the four-year senior developed a strong resume as a member of the Spartans.
The Quakes had tried to trade up to the #2 overall pick, according to head coach Dominic Kinnear, as the team looked to swap picks with New York City FC in exchange for allocation money and get one of the talented forwards available at that point. Instead, when the trade fell through, Kinnear and general manager John Doyle went with Alashe.
"We were looking at the two forwards (after Cyle Larin was selected first overall) available," said Kinnear. "We tried to maintain our #4 pick, but possibly move up. We were hoping to come out of it with two of the top four picks, hoping that Fatai would be one of them, and assuring ourselves of getting one of those forwards. When those guys were selected (Khiry Shelton to NYCFC and Romario Williams to the Montreal Impact), we knew Fatai was our guy."
As a senior with Michigan State, Alasha scored 2 goals and recorded 1 assist in 23 appearances, all of them starts. He was employed as a central midfielder, primarily with defensive responsibilities, but was still very active on offense. Kinnear said that Alashe reminded him very much of Ricardo Clark, a fixture with the Houston Dynamo for many years and a veteran of the U.S. men's national team.
"He's an all-around midfielder," said Kinnear. "He can play holding and also get forward, so he's got a good range. We thought at that time, he was the best player available.
"He's a good athlete. If you look at some of the breakdown of the film, he's good on set pieces where he's getting a head on some things, he's a good passer of the ball. We asked how he felt about doing the dirty work on the field, and he said he enjoys it.
Kinnear credited his assistant coach Steve Ralston for evaluating Alashe and supporting his selection. The talented midfielder was a member of the 2011 Big Ten All-Freshman team and the 2014 NSCAA All-Midwest Region team.
"I could see Fatai playing in the middle of a 4-4-2," said Kinnear. "He could play in a 4-4-3 as well. He's not an attacking midfielder, but he can play somewhere in between and be more of a box-to-box guy."
He signed with MLS ahead of the draft, which saves the Quakes the necessary contract negotiations. Alashe will be added directly to Earthquakes roster.
"You want guys that want to play in MLS," said Kinnear. "After interviewing him, we knew he was good character-wise.
"Athleticism is a huge part of Major League Soccer, but he also has good technical ability and a good attitude. You put those three together, that makes for a promising future, and hopefully that is with us for a long, long time."