It wasn’t until a FaceTime call from his Drexel coach Michael Marchiano that senior Chris Donovan first suspected he had been selected in the Major League Soccer SuperDraft on Jan. 11.
Minutes before he was selected, the MLS website wasn’t properly updating draft picks in real time.
Marchiano decided to give him a call thinking Donovan already heard the news.
“I think he was really trying to rein it in, especially once I told him I hadn’t heard anything yet,” Donovan said. “He didn’t want to spoil the news, but him covering up his face on FaceTime really told the whole story.”
Marchiano heard the news before Donovan when the coach got word from a club that he was off the board. After waiting a moment for Donovan to get his celebrations out of the way, he made the call.
“I called Chris and he didn’t know what was going on,” Marchiano said. “I ended up calling him back a little bit later after he had seen the news and caught a tail end of the celebration that was going on. I guess he saw my bluff a little bit in that first call.”
Donovan was selected with the 12th pick in the third round (68th overall) by the Columbus Crew as an unsigned draft pick.
Unsigned draft picks are players who are drafted but haven’t signed with the club that selected them yet. They have the opportunity to earn a contract in camp and can be signed or waived anytime before the day after the regular season. Players who have not signed have the right to be put on the waivers list.
Donovan is now the second Drexel player in program history to be drafted by an MLS team behind Jeff Parke, who was selected with the 60th overall pick in 2004 by the New York Red Bulls.
Preseason camp has already started in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and it’s a chance for Donovan to earn a contract with the Crew.
Donovan is just a few sessions in with some of the Crew’s top players such as midfielders Darlington Nagbe, Lucas Zelarayan and forward Gyasi Zardes.
“I’ve only trained with them for a little, but they’re incredible,” Donovan said. “I’m looking forward to learning from people at the top of the game. I don’t think it can be stated enough how important it is to be around people who play at the highest level because you learn not only from playing but by watching them closely.”
Marchiano said Donovan has always had a good understanding of the game, which can partly be attributed to his brief time as a coach.
Donovan coached the junior varsity team at his former high school, Conestoga, during the pandemic.
“Once I started coaching you realize just how effective it is to have another voice on the field,” Donovan said. “Something that always stood out to me was when players would come to me, individually and ask for feedback. Just knowing that someone is coming to you for advice, it’s a really enjoyable moment.”
Donovan finished off his senior year with 26 points (12 goals and two assists). He was named the Philadelphia Soccer Six Chris Jones Player of the Year, the Colonial Athletic Association Men’s Soccer Player of the Year and earned All-CAA first-team honors.
“There are so many instances I can remember where Chris was not only the guy we leaned on to make big plays but there’s so many instances of being really proud of the work he was putting in for the team,” Marchiano said. “It’s a blessing when your better players work as hard as anybody else. You’re in a really good situation.”
Donovan will find out about a contract offer some time before the regular season, which kicks off Feb. 26 for the Crew.
In the meantime, the MLS Next Pro league starts this season. It’s a developmental league for new players before they transition into the MLS. Columbus is one of 21 clubs with an affiliated team in the league.
“I think this league is a really good idea and a really good opportunity for players like myself to potentially begin a career,” Donovan said. “Because playing in practice with the highest level players is extremely valuable, but there’s also a balance in needing to find minutes, and having the MLS Next Pro league would be extremely helpful in finding minutes for younger players.”
For now, Donovan has his eyes set on getting a contract.
“I’m really just trying to show them what I can do and earn a contract because that’s the goal at the end — to become a professional.”