Major League Soccer has officially doubled its Hoya tally: Former Georgetown men’s soccer captain and All-American Ian Christianson has signed with the New York Red Bulls.
In an exclusive interview Monday with The Hoya, the22nd overall pick of Jan. 17’s MLS SuperDraft revealed that the contract, which was announced by the Red Bulls Friday, is a one-year senior deal with three club options that can be exercised following each season.
Christianson is the first player under Head Coach BrianWiese to sign with a team in the United States’ top flight, joining Dan Gargan (MSB ’05) of the San Jose Earthquakes as the only two Georgetown players currently on MLS rosters.
“It means a lot to me, obviously, [Wiese] bringing me in there and just kind of believing in me and what I wanted to do during my time at Georgetown. As far as that goes, I’m really proud,” Christianson said. “It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to play professionally, and hopefully this starts a long legacy of Coach Wiese’s players making it in MLS.”
The average MLS player makes $143,500 a year, a number that drops to $93,500 if one doesn’t include the salary of more highly-compensated Designated Players like Thierry Henry and Robbie Keane. While Christianson did not disclose the exact salary dictated by the contract, he did express that it was “a little better than what I was expecting coming into the league straight from college.”
And deservedly so, according to his former coach.
“As someone who worked with him for the last four years, I’m not surprised [by his signing],” Wiesesaid. “He’s always had a professional mentality in how he’s done it. He’s always had all the traits to compete at that level, and we’re just really happy that he’s been given the opportunity by a team to stick it out and ultimately start a long career with a really great organization.”
Getting past that first objective of actually putting pen to paper is a big one — and one that not every MLS draftee achieves — but Christianson acknowledged that a stacked depth chart in central midfield means that the real work still lies ahead of him.
Leading up to next Sunday’s season opener against Portland, Christianson said, the Red Bulls have thus far been primarily employing a 4-3-3 system that features a star-studded midfield of newly arrived Brazilian legend Juninho, Australian hero Tim Cahill and occasional U.S. internationalDax McCarty.
“I don’t expect to just come in and start, just come in and step on the field,” Christianson said. “Right now I’m just taking it day by day. It really depends on how I continue to play and if I continue to impress [subbing] on in games.”
The Iowa native did shine in preseason for the Red Bulls, earning rave reviews from the New York Post when he notched the opening goal in a 2-0 debut win over the Columbus Crew on Feb. 1. That quick start was aided in part by his comfort within the aforementioned 4-3-3, a formation thatChristianson said closely parallels that of Georgetown.
“All three of us [Christianson, junior midfielder Joey Dillon and junior attacking mid Steve Neumann] kind of had that freedom to go where the game told us to go,” he said. “That interchange and that free-flowing formation that we played at school fits my style well.”
“I think it’s a good set-up for him,” Wiese echoed. “It’s a place where the personnel, the opportunities are ones [where] he might get some real chances to contribute early in his career.”
The Hoyas rode a Red Bull-esque emphasis on possession and ball control to the national title game last season, typically picking their opponents calmly apart over the course of the full 90 minutes; 16 of the team’s 19 wins in 2012 came either by one goal or in a shootout.
But the wins did indeed come, and if first-year head coach Mike Petke can enjoy anywhere near the kind of success that Christianson and Co. did, suffice it to say that the New York front office would be ecstatic. The East’s third seed in the 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs, the Red Bulls fell 2-1 on aggregate to D.C. United in the conference semifinals.
Next year’s edition of the MLS postseason, meanwhile, might very well pit a couple of Georgetown alumni against each other, as centerback Tommy Muller (first round, 15th overall to San Jose) and forward Andy Riemer (Supplemental Draft, sixth to Los Angeles) could follow Christianson’s lead in inking deals with their respective clubs by the end of the week.
Left back Jimmy Nealis — an all-Big East second team selection in 2012 — was taken in the second round, 37thoverall by Houston, but he reaggravated an ankle injury from his college days during training camp and as a result will not be signed by the Dynamo, Wiese said.
Nealis, who Wiese explained had played with the injury throughout most of the Blue and Gray’s historic 2012 campaign, will therefore be rehabbing in the District for the next few months or so before renewing his efforts to latch on with an outfit in MLS.
For now, though, let’s say we leave the spotlight on one “thrilled” new Hoya pro.
“Just being able to sign with the Red Bulls is…”Christianson started.
He paused for a couple seconds, grasping for the right words, then let out a laugh.
“There’s no other way to describe it — it’s just really cool.”