Nick DeLeon is an ambitious dude.
I reached D.C. United’s first round pick (seventh overall) at his hotel this afternoon after the team finished up its first official day of the 2012 MLS preseason, and he was forthcoming about his goals for the future. "I want to eventually play for the national team, play in a couple World Cups," DeLeon told me on the phone. But he knows that he has plenty of work to do. And that work started today.
DeLeon is joining a D.C. United team that finished just short of the MLS playoffs last season, but that still finds itself caught in the middle of a rebuilding process with youth all over the roster. And in the coaching staff too. When I asked DeLeon for his impression of Ben Olsen and the rest of the coaching staff so far, he responded initially with just a single word: "Young." The 21-year old attacking midfielder recognizes the value in playing for a coach who can easily relate to his players. "They’re fun to be around," he added.
DeLeon scored 14 goals and nine assists in his two years at the University of Louisville, helping lead the Cardinals to an appearance in the College Cup Final in 2010, and the Quarterfinals in 2011. He brings a winning mentality to the field, and comes to D.C. with the reputation of being a "gamer."
DeLeon played almost exclusively as an outside midfielder for Louisville, and apparently we should expect that to continue this season for United. I asked DeLeon about his preferred position and he suggested that he would "probably fit in as a winger." With the news coming out last week from the Washington Post that Chris Pontius, United’s starting left midfielder, won’t be ready to participate in training until Mar. 1 as he continues to recover from a fractured right tibia suffered in September, DeLeon may even have to start immediately for D.C. The confidence that he conveys seems to hint that DeLeon will be up to the task.
Playing for the national team isn’t DeLeon’s only goal for the future though. The rookie has another lofty goal that might even land him with a spot on the prestigious D.C. United All-Time Best Hair Best XI. "I’ve always dreamt about being able to put my hair back in a ponytail," he said. DeLeon told me that he’s been growing out his hair for over a year, and it’s currently the longest it’s ever been.
Yep. He’ll fit right in.