Chris Pontius. Perry Kitchen. Nick DeLeon. Steve Birnbaum. Not only some of the more recognizable names on D.C. United's roster, the quartet that started the 2015 MLS season opening game against Montreal all have another thing in common: drafted in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft by the Black-and-Red.
Don't forget as well; Taylor Kemp would have been present as well if not for an injury picked up days before (mind, Kemp's replacement, Chris Korb, was a second round pick in 2011 by United), and Rodney Wallace, selected in the 2009 first round alongside Chris Pontius, is a starter for the Portland Timbers.
And now, United's 2015 first round selection, midfielder Miguel Aguilar, is looking to join that company. One MLS game and two CONCACAF Champions League games into the season, Aguilar has already appeared thrice for United, and even provided this moment against the Montreal Impact.
After four years as a starter for the San Francisco Dons, United's brass felt like Aguilar dropped into their laps on the day of the MLS SuperDraft. Sitting with a late pick in the first round of the draft, United didn't think they'd have a chance to pick Aguilar. But the club, which has done as well as any in recent memory with their draft picks, was quick to swoop up the 5'9'' midfielder at number 17.
With a short offseason due to Champions League play, Aguilar quickly assimilated with his new team, and has been one of manager Ben Olsen's first option off the bench in all three games this season.
"As soon as I got drafted, I knew I wanted to come in and get minutes and contribute and play," Aguilar told Black and Red United. "My teammates are very demanding, and being in the league is a lot different. You're in the big leagues now, and you got to get your act together."
Hard to say that Aguilar has missed any sort of beat since the day he was drafted. With a deep squad that made the playoffs last year after winning the Eastern Conference during the regular season, it would have been a safe choice to see Aguilar head south to get some minutes with the Richmond Kickers, much like Birnbaum and Kemp in their rookie seasons.
United's fair share of injuries and Aguilar's readiness to step up immediately has nixed any such thought for Olsen and company.
"We were hopeful [he could step in right away]. We are always looking in the draft for players to help us right away," Olsen said. "By watching him play, by interviewing him and evaluating his mental ability, we were fairly confident that he was going to get minutes this year."
Aguilar will likely be asked to come off the bench again this weekend in New Jersey against the New York Red Bulls. Olsen showed against Montreal in a tight spot timing wise a willingness to stick with the same starting eleven, minus a suspended Fabian Espindola. Which means a weekend off will likely see DeLeon and Chris Rolfe maintain their wide spots, where Aguilar will most likely always feature for Olsen.
Having grown up in Mexico before moving to the States on the West Coast at a young age, Aguilar admitted that he hadn't quite known of the ferocity of the Atlantic Cup rivalry between United and the Red Bulls. But having watched the playoff series between the two teams last season, he'll get his opportunity to face United's fiercest rivals this weekend on the field.
"I remember watching the playoffs [last year] and I watched that game," Aguilar said. "I knew it was a rivalry, but coming from the West Coast, the kind of rivalries you know about are the Sounders and Timbers. And this is the biggest rivalry here on the East Coast. So it's definitely a big game for us, and we want to come back with the three points."
The next step for Aguilar? Finding his way into the starting eleven at some point this season. There's bound to be opportunities with several tight stretches in the schedule for United, on top of US Open Cup and Champions League play. And it's down to Aguilar himself to push the starters for the right to start according to Olsen.
"Now its up to him and us to move him forward, to make sure he is constantly in the 18, and pressing these guys for minutes."