The San Jose Earthquakes made a solid pick in the first round of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, selecting UCLA central midfielder Jackson Yueill at #6 overall. Just 19 year old, the Minnesota native came out of college early, signing a Generation Adidas contract with MLS following his sophomore year. And in an expanse hall at the Los Angeles Convention Center Friday afternoon, just minutes away from the Bruins’ campus, Yueill strode to podium as a professional soccer player.
“I’m super excited,” said Yueill. “Having been on the west coast the past few years, I love it here. Moving up to San Jose is going to be really cool. I’ve heard good things about the environment and the fans, so that’s really exciting.”
Yueill is coming off a second straight All-Pac-12 First Team season at UCLA, and though still a teenager, turned heads with his composure at the MLS Combine early this week. New general manager Jesse Fioranelli saw enough in the kid to make him his first selection in his new role with the club.
“I met the coaches this week, and it was awesome,” said Yueill. “I really connected with them. I thought they were a great group of guys, and definitely some people I can learn from. I’m super excited to be a part of the program and bring another cup to San Jose.”
The midfielder certainly doesn’t lack in confidence, something that he hopes supporters of the Earthquakes will realize quickly, and he looks forward to suiting up for the Blue and Black at Avaya Stadium in very short order.
“It’s going to be a great year, a great few years, of course’” said Yueill. “I’m super excited to meet them and get involved with them. It will be really fun to play in front of them. I think they will be super excited for what is to come. We’re going to play to some really good soccer and win lots of games. I’m super excited to have them and super excited to play for them.”
The Earthquakes have quite a midfield corps on their current roster, so the newest member of the team has his work cut out for him if he is to see the field with the first team in his rookie year.
“It is going to be challenging for me coming from the college environment to the professional environment and playing with these men,” said Yueill, “but I think it will be a really good experience, and with the assistance of the guys on the team and the coaching staff, I should fit in just right.
“What’s really going to help me is my vision with the ball,” he added. “I am an attacking-half player, and I can see passes that others are not able to see. Finding those goal scoring opportunities inside and out of the box and being a dangerous player with the ball in the preseason will definitely help me get more involved with the team and get familiar with the team.
“As a professional, I see myself more as an #8, kind of a box to box player,” Yueill continued. “Someone who can get into the attacking half and create scoring opportunities, as well as someone who can get back behind the ball and defend.”
Creative with the ball and willing to defend -- these are two attributes that will be especially appealing to Earthquakes head coach Dominic Kinnear. After all, the two-time MLS Cup winning coach helped bring up former U.S. international Ricardo Clark in much the same manner. On the current Quakes, third-year midfielder Fatai Alashe is also being groomed in that role. Yueill will be looking at Kinnear to help him grow his game as well.
“I’m a player who loves to learn, so I was super excited when they drafted me,” said Yueill. “Being the first pick for San Jose was super thrilling for me. Coming into a team where the coach believes in you will help me get acclimated to the team. It will really help me, and I am super excited. I always love a coach that can help me with my game and help me become an overall better player, which will overall help my career and hopefully also the team.
“I’ve heard great things and I’ve seen a few games, so I’m really excited to come out and play a style that they play,” he added. “I think I am going to fit in just right. I’m super-excited to start and learn under him and learn from his coaching.”
And for supporters that are not familiar with collegiate soccer and what a comparison in style from the professional ranks, Yueill models a lot of his game after a well known World Cup winner from an equally well known club.
“My favorite player to watch is Andres Iniesta of Barcelona,” Yueill said. “He’s been a top player these past years and is really good on and off the ball. His movement and decision making are skills I like to emulate. He’s a player I strive to be.”
Confident and skilled, Yueill looks like an excellent pick-up for the Quakes.