Picked 28th overall, Alex Blake is the first-ever Eph drafted by the MLS

All you had to do to know that Alex Blake ’03 was more than just the best player in the NESCAC was watch him play, watch him break down defenses with his speed and ball-handling, watch him score three goals in a game. Seeing the Eph striker from Kingston, Jamaica was believing that his soccer career would not end with graduation.

As it happened, Blake became the first Eph ever drafted by a Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise when he was announced as the 28th overall pick in Friday’s MLS SuperDraft after being selected by the Colorado Rapids.

“I’m ecstatic,” Blake said. “It feels very good to be drafted. It’s really a dream come true for me. After deciding to play at the Div. III level a lot of people told me I wouldn’t be able to play at the professional level, but I know that I made the right decision in life and that I got the best education possible and I got to go to the pros, which had always been a dream of mine.

“The Rapids are the team that showed the most interest in me from day one,” he continued. “I wanted to be with them the most and they wanted me so it’s a good fit.”

The Rapids are the second professional-level organization to draft the Eph superstar, with the Jan. 17 announcement coming on the heels of last month’s selection by the A League’s Rochester Raging Rhinos. Blake was selected 16th out of the total 38 players taken in the draft, and was taken with the Rhinos’ first pick.

The Rhinos’ selection of Blake with their first pick was significant to Head Coach Mike Russo, who noted that being drafted ahead of the University of Connecticut’s striker, Damani Ralph, was evidence that teams were impressed with Blake even though he played at the Div. III level.

“Now some of the MLS teams that were keeping their interest in Alex quiet and hoping he would be a sleeper will have to re-assess where they want to slot him on their draft list,” Russo said after the A League draft. “They also know that Rochester is one of the few A League teams that can match what they hope to offer Alex. This is a win-win situation for Alex.”

More impressive still is that the Rhinos selected Blake in spite of the strong numbers Ralph put up at UConn. Ralph was the Big East Offensive Player of the Year and a Div. I All-American. He tallied 18 goals on the year with nine game-winners.

“It’s a huge honor for me to be drafted in the A League by Rochester,” Blake said. “It’s a great honor, and between being drafted by the Rhinos and the Rapids it really makes for a can’t lose situation on my end.”

Blake, a three-time First Team All-American at Williams and the 2001 NSCAA Div. III National Player of the Year, is the Ephs’ all-time leading scorer with 81 goals and 33 assists (195 points).

Looking back at his collegiate career, Blake cites the strides he made in his maturity and leadership capabilities as the most important asset he picked up in his four years at Williams.

“I became a more mature player here,” Blake said. “Being a big fish in a small pond helped me become a more mature player and grow as an individual and as a player, which in turn helped me develop into a leader.

“It made me a better person. It made me better suited for the professional game from a mental standpoint.”

A man who once said scoring goals is better than sex, Blake was drafted with the hope that he would continue to do just that at the professional level. Differences abound between Div. III soccer and the MLS, differences which were cited both by Blake and Russo.

“It was tremendous that he was drafted so early,” Russo said. “For him to be drafted 28th when there are 60 spots, that’s a tremendous tribute to him. Alex has got the physical tools to play at the next level, there is no question about that. He just has to prepare himself for the professional game, which means being in the best shape of his life, and devoting pretty much all his time to his game.

“Alex has got the tools and the capabilities to do it, now all that’s left is for him to say to himself ‘this is what I want to do’ and commit to it, which I don’t think he should have trouble doing,” Russo said.

“I need to think quicker and act quicker in terms of finishing, which is my greatest asset,” Blake said. “I know I can compete with the players at the next level.

“Right now I think I’m in position to probably be the number four striker for Colorado, which would mean I would definitely get some playing time in the upcoming season.”