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Feb. 21, 2003

In mid-January, Men’s Soccer player Alecko Eskandarian was selected as the #1 pick overall in the 2003 MLS Superdraft by DC United. Alecko played three seasons at UVa as a forward and established himself as one of UVa’s finest soccer players. During his career at UVa, Alecko started 56 out of 60 games, racked up a total of 4,565 minutes of playing time, took 232 shots, and scored 50 goals. He also set various school records, including most goals scored in a single season (25). We caught up with Alecko recently to find out how things are going in his professional career.

Q: What made you decide to go pro?

A: My decision to go pro was something that was in the works for a while. Ever since I was a little kid I always dreamt about being a pro soccer player. I have been working hard for a while and had to overcome a lot of setbacks before I finally reached my goal to be a pro. I was planning on going pro after last fall, but a bad injury midway through my sophomore season put an end to that as I played the 2nd half of the season at 75% health-wise. However after working hard in the spring and after having a couple good training camps with the US Olympic Team I decided, along with my parents, close friends, and UVA coach Gelnovatch, to go pro after my junior season. I have been at UVA for 2 years and even though I plan on graduating one day, the career opportunity that I have in soccer is the one I wanted the most. Also, there aren’t many people in this world who do what they love as their job, and I am fortunate to say that I am one of them and I couldn’t be happier.

Q: How did you feel being selected as the #1 pick overall in the 2003 MLS SuperDraft?

A: It was a tremendous honor to be selected #1 overall in the MLS draft. Definitely a dream come true and a storybook start to my pro career. I was also extremely happy to be picked #1 because I got picked up by DC United. This puts me in a location where I am not too far from my home in New Jersey but also pretty close to all my friends from UVA who I am sure I will be seeing a lot of. DC is a great franchise and we are going to have an awesome team so I am extremely excited.

Q: What are the major differences between your professional career thus far and your experiences on the UVa team?

A: There are many differences from college to pro soccer. It isn’t an easy transition because the college game relies more on physical ability rather than skill, speed, or awareness. Also, the professional level is a huge step above from the college game because pro teams contain only the best players from all over the world. On DC United I play with exceptional players like Hristo Stoichkov, Marco Etcheverry and Ernie Stewart. Hristo was once voted World Player of the Year and has played in a World Cup. Marco is considered one of the best center midfielders in the world, and Ernie has played in 3 World Cups for the US. There is a tremendous amount of experience and class that comes along with being a professional athlete/soccer player. We are professional athletes and are paid to perform to the best of our ability and to entertain the fans. Another major difference is the immaturity that is sometimes shown at the college level. At the professional level you have to live with the decisions made, there’s no complaining about playing time! You have to just give it your all every time you step on the field. I think that is just something that comes with experience and gaining maturity as you get older. Its hard work, but that’s what we get paid for.

Q: What do you like most about your new team members and coaches?

A: They are all so professional. They are a great group of guys. I am fortunate to know some of them from playing with them on national teams or playing against them in college so I don’t really consider them new teammates. I get along real well with the other rookies and we occasionally hang out. Some of the veterans have really helped to break the ice by taking me out to dinner and whatnot. I actually went out with Mike Petke and his wife a week ago and had a great time. He is a really nice guy. I have only been with the team for a few weeks so I’m still in the process of getting to know everyone. From what I can see so far, these guys are a great group of individuals who really want to succeed.

Q: How has your life changed since the draft?

A: Man, I live a crazy life! I think my life has changed a lot because I am starting something new and I am putting all my energy and focus on my professional career. I am living in a new city and essentially starting my life all over again. My personality is the same but I feel as though I have matured a lot and I am becoming truly independent. It has been tough though, because I do miss some of my best friends from UVA. Chris Megaloudis and Matt Oliver were guys I hung out with all the time and we’ve been through a lot together. Those memories from UVa are ones that I will always cherish. I also miss hanging out with my friends from UVA Women’s Soccer team. I was used to seeing some of them every day and its difficult to not be with and share moments with the people who are so close to me. Although I really miss my friends and UVA, I am positive that the direction my life has taken is for the best, and for that I am grateful.

Q: What do you miss most about UVa?

A: The thing I miss the most is my friends, especially Chris Megaloudis, Matt Oliver, and Sarah Huffman. I am grateful for having them in my life because they made me to smile everyday even if it wasn’t such a great day. I continue to stay in touch with them and hope to see them again soon, but its difficult sometimes with my schedule. Another thing I miss about UVA is playing at Klockner Stadium in front of the fans. I think Klockner is the best stadium in college soccer and the atmosphere that our crowd created when I played there was simply amazing. The fans were great to me and really helped me feel comfortable from the moment I stepped in as a sub in my first game as a freshman. They provided me with great memories and hopefully they appreciated the effort I put forth for the team.

Q: Recently on the website fan poll you were voted as the male athlete most likely to make the All-Century ACC Team in 50 years. How does that make you feel?

A: Well what can I say? THANK YOU TO ALL THOSE THAT VOTED FOR ME! That is a huge honor because the ACC is the best conference for soccer, year in and year out. There have been so many great professional players that have come from the ACC so hopefully I will be included in that select group. I’ve never been one to get overly excited about winning an award. That’s not the reason I play the game. Yet it is a very satisfying feeling to know that people appreciate the work I put in to the game of soccer and to be recognized for it is just incredible. Thank you to all those that voted for me and hopefully I can make all of you proud.

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