Friday, January 28, 2022

2022 MLS Draft results: Ben Bender goes first overall to Charlotte FC, discusses pro focus

Bender is the third University of Maryland player to go No. 1 overall

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It’s all in the family as Maryland native Ben Bender was picked first overall in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft by expansion side Charlotte FC . The Generation Adidas prospect played two years at the University of Maryland, scoring nine goals and providing seven assists. While these numbers don’t jump off the page, it is important to note that he only played 29 games in college due to COVID-shortened seasons. Also, seven of those goals and five of the assists came in a sophomore season that saw him win Big Ten Midfielder of the year while also being selected as a first-team All-American.

In high school at Calvert Hall, Bender was named an Allstate All-American in the 2019 season and was also named a Top Drawer Soccer Star after his junior season.

Bender won’t be the first soccer player in his family to go through Charlotte as his older brother Jacob played a year with the Charlotte Independence in USL. This along with his brother Josh playing college soccer at Messiah University has had a large impact on Bender’s development. In his interview with ¡Que Goalazo!’s Luis Miguel Echegaray, you could see Bender’s ease when discussing how his brothers have impacted his development saying,

“Yeah, Jacob has been so influential in my career, I can remember just watching him on the field when he played in college and he’s been giving me some pointers on what to do and in the pros,” Bender said. “Because he spent a year with the Independence, and I’ve certainly modeled my game after him his work rate, his ability to see the field, dictate the game, and just really dominate the game on the attacking and the defensive side. That’s been something that has allowed me to develop as a player. So, I’ve been really grateful to have a brother that’s six years older than me to go through the process before. “

While Bender has played as a No. 10 in college, his two-way ability will see him slot deeper as more of a No. 8, similar to the transition that Franky Amaya made coming into the league. While he is also at home setting up players, he’s not afraid to get on the end of the ball and shoot which makes sense when he looks to model his game after midfielders like Xabi Alonso and Kevin de Bruyne. 

Bender, 20, knows how he wants to play which is a credit to the coaching staffs that he has worked with. Bender also spent time with NPSL side FC Baltimore Christos, where he was named Top Drawer Soccer NPSL young player of the season — sensing a trend here? — when he registered six goals and five assists while leading the team to a conference championship. That confidence shines through when talking about his playing style. 

“In defense, something in college that I really learned from my coach is to hate not having the ball, and I every time we lose it, I want to get it back as quickly as possible,” he said. “So I’ve developed that in the past, two years from college pressing and winning the ball back because I want to dictate the game. I’m a player that wants to facilitate the game, use my vision, and my passing, and my ability to have good spatial awareness to impact the game and help my teammates thrive.”

Bender is excited to experience the Queen City especially after his older brother was pointing out some of the best spots to visit. Add that with the excitement of helping mold a blank slate in an expansion side and this couldn’t be a better situation for a young player.

“My focus is to help Charlotte FC win at all costs,” he said. “Win the Supporters Shield and the MLS Cup, that would be that a dream come true. And the MLS is such a good league now. I think that I don’t even have to focus on Europe but, you know, maybe down the road, that’s something. If I continue to develop. But it’s going to be so, so fun playing at Charlotte. That’s my main focus.”

Bender joins good company as the third No. 1 overall pick out of UMD joining Maurice Edu (2007) and Leo Cullen (1998). The UMD to MLS path is a well-travelled road as well with 51 total Super Draft selections. Bender’s teammate Brett St. Martin was also selected by Sporting Kansas City in the second round.

If all goes well, Bender is well on the path to realizing his dream of representing the United States at the national team level. 

See the other selections in the draft below:

Round 1

1

Charlotte FC

Ben Bender

Midfielder, Maryland

2

FC Cincinnati

Roman Celentano

Goalkeeper, Indiana

3

FC Dallas

Isaiah Parker

Forward, Saint Louis University

4

Houston Dynamo

Thorleifur Ulfarsson

Forward, Duke 

5

Austin FC

Kipp Keller

Defender, Saint Louis University

6

FC Dallas

Lucas Bartlett

Defender, St. John’s

7

New York Red Bulls

Matthew Nocita

Defender, Naval Academy

8

San Jose Earthquakes

Ousseni Bouda

Forward, Stanford

9

Inter Miami

Ryan Sailor

Defender, Washington

10

Nashville SC

Ahmed Longmire

Defender, UCLA

11

Chicago Fire

Kendall Burks

Defender, Washington

12

Columbus Crew

Patrick Schulte

Goalkeeper, Saint Louis University

13

San Jose Earthquakes

Oskar Argen

Defender, Clemson

14

FC Cincinnati

Ian Murphy

Defender, Duke

15

FC Montreal

Jojea Kwizera

Forward, Utah Valley University

16

Vancouver Whitecaps

Simon Becher

Forward, Saint Louis University

17

Minnesota United

Tani Oluwaseyi

Forward, St. John’s

18

Orlando City

Jack Lynn

Forward, Notre Dame

19

Atlanta United

Erik Centeno

Forward, Pacific

20

New York Red Bulls

O’Vante Mullings

Forward, Florida Gulf Coast

21

LA Galaxy

Fari Mutatu

Forward, Michigan State

22

Sporting Kansas City

Esai Easley

Defender, Grand Canyon

23

Colorado Rapids

Mohamed Omar

Midfielder, Notre Dame

24

New England Revolution

Jacob Jackson

Goalkeeper, Loyola Marymount

25

Columbus Crew

Philip Quinton

Defender, Notre Dame

26

Colorado Rapids

Anthony Markanich

Defender, Northern Illinois

27

Portland Timbers

Justin Rasmussen

Defender, Grand Canyon

28

FC Dallas

Tsiki Ntsabeleng 

Forward, Oregan State

Round 2

  • Pick 29: Charlotte, Kyle Holcomb Forward Wake Forest
  • Pick 30: FC Cinncinati, Nicholas Markanich Forward Northern Illinois
  • Pick 31: Toronto FC, Luka Garvin Goalkeeper St. John’s 
  • Pick 32: Houston Dynamo, Paulo Lima Midfielder
  • Pick 33: Chicago Fire, Charlie Ostrem Defender Washington
  • Pick 34: New York City, Kevin O’Toole Forward Princeton
  • Pick 35: Austin FC, Charlie Asensio Defender Clemson
  • Pick 36: DC United, Sofiane Djeffal Midfielder Oregon State
  • Pick 37: Inter Miami, Lucas Meek Midfielder Washington
  • Pick 38: Nashville SC, Will Meyer Goalkeeper Akron
  • Pick 39: Houston Dynamo, Arturo Ordonez Defender Pittsburgh
  • Pick 40: Columbus Crew, Jacob Erlandson Defender Bowling Green State
  • Pick 41: DC United, Alex Nagy Forward Vermont
  • Pick 42: LA Galaxy, Callum Johnson Midfielder Clemson

  • Pick 43: Seattle Sounders, Achille Robin Defender Washington
  • Pick 44: Vancouver Whitecaps, Luis Filipe Fernandez-Salvador Midfielder Clemson
  • Pick 45: Colorado Rapids, Roberto Molina Forward Las Vegas Lights
  • Pick 46: Orlando City, Nathan Dossantos Defender Marshall
  • Pick 47: Atlanta United, Tristan Trager Forward Air Force Academy
  • Pick 48: Inter Miami, Justin Ingram Midfielder Loyola University Maryland
  • Pick 49: Vancouver Whitecaps, Giovanni Aguilar Midfielder Cal State – Northridge
  • Pick 50: Sporting Kansas City, Brett St. Martin Defender Maryland
  • Pick 51: Colorado Rapids, Pass
  • Pick 52: New England Revolution, Ben Reveno Defender UCLA
  • Pick 53: Real Salt Lake, Pedro Fonseca Forward Louisville
  • Pick 54: Inter Miami, Tyler Bagley Forward Cornell
  • Pick 55: Portland Timbers, Julian Bravo Defender Santa Clara
  • Pick 56: New York City, Kinsford Adjei Forward Dayton

Round 3

  • Pick 57: Charlotte FC, George Marks Goalkeeper Clemson
  • Pick 58: FC Cinncinati, Pass
  • Pick 59: Toronto FC, Reshaun Walkes Forward Texas Rio Grande Valley
  • Pick 60: LA Galaxy, Chandler Defender Saint Louis University
  • Pick 61: Austin FC, Michael Knapp Midfielder New York Red Bulls II
  • Pick 62: FC Dallas, Alec Smir Goalkeeper North Carolina
  • Pick 63: Chicago Fire, Carlo Ritaccio Defender Akron
  • Pick 64: San Jose Earthquakes, John Martin Defender Clemson
  • Pick 65: Inter Miami, Pass
  • Pick 66: FC Dallas, Chase Niece Defender Saint Louis University
  • Pick 67: FC Montreal, Ivy Brisma Forward North Carolina State
  • Pick 68: Columbus Crew, Chris Donovan Forward Drexel
  • Pick 69: DC United, Skage Simonson Midfielder SMU
  • Pick 70: LA Galaxy, Pass
  • Pick 71: New York Redbulls, Giannis Nikopolidis Goalkeeper Georgetown
  • Pick 72: Vancouver Whitecaps, Theo Collomb Forward North Carolina Greensboro
  • Pick 73: New York Red Bulls, Seth Kuhn Midfielder Penn State
  • Pick 74: Orlando City, Nick Taylor Forward Central Florida
  • Pick 75: Atlanta United, Daniel Bloyou Forward Penn State
  • Pick 76: Seattle Sounders, Hal Underitz Midfielder Seattle
  • Pick 77: Nashville SC, Pass
  • Pick 78: Sporting Kansas City, Pass
  • Pick 79: Colorado Rapids, Pass
  • Pick 80: New England Revolution Pass
  • Pick 81: Real Salt Lake, Jasper Loeffelsend Defender Pittsburgh
  • Pick 82: Philadelphia Union, Pass
  • Pick 83: Portland Timbers, Sivert Haugli Defender Virginia Tech
  • Pick 84: New York City, El Mehdi Youssoufi Forward St. Francis Brooklyn
  • Pick 85: Chicago Fire, Yanis Leerman Defender Central Florida
  • Pick 86: Vancouver Whitecaps, Vitor Dias Midfielder Marshall
  • Pick 87: FC Dallas, Holland Rula Defender Wake Forest
  • Pick 88: Atlanta United, Tola Showunmi Forward New Hampshire
  • Pick 89: San Jose Earthquakes, Pass 

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