Red Storm have a bit of everything available in Tuesday's MLS SuperDraft

·7 min read

The St. John's Red Storm have a bit of everything available in Tuesday's MLS SuperDraft, complete with Canadian passports.

Want to stop goals? Try towering goalkeeper Luka Gavran, a Hamilton native who stands between 6-5 and 6-6.

Need to score goals? How about dangerous forward Tani Oluwaseyi of Mississauga, Ont., the 2019 Big East Offensive Player of the Year.

Gavran and Oluwaseyi were part of a global Red Storm team that featured talent from Denmark, England, France, Germany, Japan, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Trinidad and Tobago as well as the U.S.

Other Canadians on the squad were Toronto defender Matt Chandler and Ottawa forward Nicolas Fleuriau Chateau.

St. John's defeated Princeton in the first round of the NCAA tournament before losing 2-0 to top-seeded Oregon State in the round of 32.

While teammates and close friends who have played together for years, Gavran and Oluwaseyi have taken different paths to the draft.

Gavran is coming off a stellar season while Oluwaseyi is nearing full health after a knee injury.

Gavran started all 20 matches for the Red Storm last fall, posting an 11-6-3 record with 12 shutouts, an 0.57 goals-against average and .844 save percentage.

He led Division 1 'keepers in save percentage, tied Kentucky's Jan Hoffelner for the NCAA lead in shutouts and ranked third in goals-against average.

"I'm ready to take on any opportunities," said Gavran. "There's lot of confidence going into the draft so I feel good. I did my part of the deal so I really can't do much any more. I'm just waiting to see where I end up."

Oluwaseyi, six foot two and 170 pounds, has seen limited action since the 2019 season due to the pandemic and knee surgery.

"A couple of teams have spoken with me or my agent. I'm optimistic when a team will take a chance on me when the day comes," he said.

Expansion Charlotte FC has the first pick in Tuesday's three-round draft, followed by FC Cincinnati, Toronto FC, the Houston Dynamo and Austin FC. CF Montreal will go 11th and the Vancouver Whitecaps 16th.

Other Canadians available in the draft are Creighton midfielder Charles Auguste (Montreal), Marshall defender Nathan Dossantos (Oakville, Ont.), Florida Gulf Coast forward O'Vonte Mullings, Notre Dame midfielder Mohamed Omar (Toronto), UNC Charlotte forward Preston Popp (Montreal), Providence College midfielder Simon Triantafillou (Burlington, Ont.), and Texas Rio Grand Valley forward Reshaun Walkes (Brampton, Ont.).

While the 21-year-old Gavran enjoyed a memorable season, there is plenty of goalkeeping talent available in the draft.

The Generation Adidas class of eight features two 'keepers: Patrick Schulte (Saint Louis University) and Roman Celentano (Indiana University).

The six-foot-five Schulte, a two-time Atlantic 10 first-team selection, posted a 16-1-4 record in the fall with nine shutouts and a conference-best 0.81 goals-against average.

The six-foot-three Celentano is the first 'keeper in Big Ten history to repeat as Goalkeeper of the Year (2020-21 and 2021). He was named Defensive Most Outstanding Player of the 2020 NCAA Tournament after helping the Hoosiers advance to the national championship game against Marshall.

Generation Adidas players are especially attractive in the draft because their salaries do not count against a team's salary budget cap.

Also available in the draft is Hoffelner, who shared St. John's goalkeeping duties with Gavran in 2019 before transferring to Kentucky. Hoffelner was Big East Co-Goalkeeper of the Year that year.

"He always pushed me. I pushed him," said Gavran.

Gavran redshirted as a freshman, saying he learned from the experience.

"It was a good thing that happened because it was a little bit of a reality check," Gavran said. "It showed me I needed to work much harder to get to that college level and then maybe even to the next level."

Gavran, who played for St. Jean de Brebeuf Catholic High School in Hamilton, started his soccer career as a striker before switching to goalkeeper when he was 13. As a result, he is excellent at distributing the ball.

"I'm confident with my feet and love playing out of the back," he said.

Oluwaseyi underwent surgery after dislocating his left kneecap in June while playing for Manhattan SC in USL League Two. Amazingly he played another game before an MRI revealed the damage.

"It just felt uncomfortable but there wasn't much pain," he said.

He returned to action in the fall, but pulled the plug after two games to give the knee a little more time.

"The knee is almost back to where it should be," he said. "I haven't played in a while so now it's just about getting my sharpness back."

He believes he will return a better player.

"The one thing that not playing did was help me focus on the parts of my game that I knew I needed to work on. It helped me pinpoint the things that I wanted to improve in my game - and watch other people who do those things. And now my goal is just to try and implement those things into my game."

And he says any team that takes a chance on him "won't regret" it.

Oluwaseyi, who has already finished his degree with a major in sports management and minor in business administration, is coming off a pretty good base.

A two-time selection to the All-Big East first team, he scored five goals and added three assists in nine games in an abbreviated 2021 spring season when he was named to the watch list for the MAC Hermann Trophy, given annually to the top U.S. college soccer player.

In 2019 as a sophomore, Oluwaseyi became the first Red Storm player since 1996 to win Big East Offensive Player of the Year honours after scoring 11 goals and adding five assists, His 11 goals were the most by a St. John's player since 2003.

His 2020 spring season was hampered by an ankle injury and COVID outbreak in the team.

The Nigerian-born forward, whose full name is Tanitoluwa Oluwatimikhin Oluwaseyi, was named to the Big East all-freshman team in 2018 after recording four goals and a pair of assists in 18 appearances (five starts).

"I'm definitely looking forward to the next chapter," said the 21-year-old. "This is something I've dreamt of, I'd say, maybe the last 10, 12 years of my life."

Oluwaseyi, who attended St. Joan of Arc Catholic Secondary in Mississauga, can score goals and play provider.

"I'm able to score in different ways and it's something that I love to do," he said. "And something I love to do just as much is set my teammates up because I love seeing that joy on their face when they score.

"And the joy of celebrating with my teammates is something that St. John's really instilled in me and something that I can't wait to do at the next level."

While centre forward is his preferred position, he says he can play on either wing.

Both players rave about their time at St. John's.

"It was a great 3 1/2 years," said Oluwaseyi, who has played with Gavran since he was 14. "I met some of my favourite people ever, a lot of people who've shaped me as a man and just helped me improve as a person."

"Who wouldn't want to live in New York?" added Gavran, who has finished his finance degree.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 9, 2022.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter.

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting