A few days before the 2013 MLS SuperDraft was to take place on January 17, 2013, Taylor Kemp received a prophetic text from United defender – and Kemp’s former teammate at the University of Maryland – Ethan White.
“Dude, I got a feeling you’re going to D.C.,” White said.
“I don’t know,” Kemp replied. “I haven’t heard anything from them, but I hope so.”
Under 72 hours later, D.C. United selected the Terrapins defender as the 17th overall selection in the SuperDraft.
“Told you so,” White texted after seeing the news. “Congratulations, so happy for you.”
Describing being drafted by the Black-and-Red as “a dream,” Kemp only needs to venture about 10 miles south to settle into his new soccer digs.
“It’s a club that I couldn’t be happier to be joining,” said Kemp. “That’s who everyone wants to play for, an exciting and fun team to be a part of.”
“[Head Coach] Ben [Olsen] has done a great job at motivating the team and getting them to play well…you can see it on the field. They play with a ton of energy and a lot of passion.”
A four-year starter at Maryland and a team captain in 2012, Kemp appeared in 56 games (54 starts) with two goals and 14 assists during his collegiate career. Despite injury woes that plagued him for nearly half of last season, the left fullback finished with a career-high six assists en route to earning Second Team All-ACC honors.
“We think we got one of the premier left backs in college,” Head Coach Ben Olsen said. “We’re very excited – he knows us, we know him. I think the transition will be pretty easy and he’ll come in right away and start to fight for playing time.”
Olsen – one of the League’s youngest coaches – is certainly not afraid to test unseasoned talent. Last year, Nick DeLeon became the fourth consecutive United rookie in as many seasons to earn an MLS Rookie of the Year nomination, a feat which no other League side can boast. Chris Pontius (2009 finalist), Andy Najar (2010 winner) and Perry Kitchen (2011 finalist) are the other three Black-and-Red players who also impressed in their inaugural MLS seasons.
“That’s what I’m most excited about,” said Kemp. “Ben is a guy who will take a chance on anybody. You can see it with the lineups he puts out there. He’ll play young guys, older guys – it doesn’t matter to him. Whoever is playing well. That is exciting to me because I want to get out there and try to earn my spot from day one. And I might do that and I might not, but I know that Ben is someone who will give me that chance.”
Fellow Terp John Stertzer – a First Team All-ACC and an NSCAA Third Team All-America selection in 2012 – landed a few spots higher in the draft than Kemp, with Real Salt Lake as the No. 12 pick. Interestingly enough, the two former teammates are set to square off in United’s home opener on Saturday, March 9 when the Claret-and-Cobalt travels to the nation’s capital.
“It’s tough to think about what it will be like for the first game,” said Kemp. “Right now I’m just really happy for him and his new home in Salt Lake and I hope he goes and has a smooth transition. It will be weird matching up against him for real instead of just in practice.”