By: Tim Wilmes ~Sports Editor~
Xavier men’s soccer has made national news in the past few weeks with the signing of senior midfielder Matt Walker to the Columbus Crew on Jan. 8 and Toronto FC’s 10th overall selection of senior defender Nick Hagglund on Jan. 16 in the Major League Soccer (MLS) SuperDraft.
The pair of acquisitions marks the second and third time a Xavier soccer player has committed to playing for an MLS team in the past two years, as Walker and Hagglund follow former XU forward and teammate Luke Spencer into the professional soccer ranks.
As a former member of the Columbus Crew Academy, Walker became the seventh homegrown player that the Crew has on its active roster with the signing, tying Columbus with FC Dallas for the most in the league.
Walker was a member of the Crew Juniors Super-20 squad that claimed the national title in 2011 and earned the title of Crew Soccer Academy’s Under-19/20 Player of the Year in 2011.
In his senior season, Walker finished 33rd in the nation and 3rd in the Big East with .41 assists per game while also finishing 18th nationally and first in the Big East with 1.47 points per game. Throughout his four-year career, Walker made 79 appearances, netted 26 goals and notched 24 assists.
“Matt Walker is a dynamic player that has the ability to turn in tight spaces and take players on one-on-one, and he fits the style that we want to play,” the Crew’s head coach Greg Berhalter told thecrew.com.
Hagglund’s selection at 10th overall in the MLS SuperDraft was the highest pick in Xavier soccer history, and only the second XU player to be taken after Spencer’s selection at 23rd overall by the New England Revolution last year.
Originally holding the 15th pick overall, Toronto FC elected to trade up to the 10th spot to acquire Hagglund in the first round.
Now the Big East’s leading defender joins a roster that recently added the high-profile England forward Jermaine Defoe and United States midfielder Michael Bradley.
“I’m incredibly excited to be at Toronto,” Hagglund told reporters at the MLS SuperDraft. “I think I’m just going to go out there and enjoy being a part of the squad.” As a senior, Hagglund led an XU defense that finished third in the Big East with 1.00 goals allowed per game and took home the Big East Defensive Player of the Year Award.
In four seasons at Xavier, Hagglund started in 81 matches, played over 7,200 minutes and notched four goals and 11 assists. The Musketeers also recorded 31 shutouts with Hagglund’s presence on the backline.
Both Xavier soccer stars made headlines this year, earning multiple honors and leading the Musketeers to a third-place finish in the school’s first year in the Big East.
Now after being teammates for the past four years and realizing their dreams of playing professional soccer, Hagglund and Walker will face each other as Eastern Conference rivals in the MLS.
The first meeting between the two Xavier stars will take place at 6 p.m. on April 5 in Columbus, Ohio.
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