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Jan. 5, 2010
2:38 p.m.

CHARLOTTESVILLE — His college career comprised only 37 games — 13 in 2008 and 24 in ’09. Still, Tony Tchani left his mark on the UVa men’s soccer program.

“He was instrumental in helping us win a national championship,” Cavaliers coach George Gelnovatch said Tuesday, “and if a kid is going to be the No. 1 or 2 pick in the draft, it’s hard not to support him.”

Tchani, a 6-4, 185-pound midfielder from Norfolk, is one of 12 players who opted to leave college early to compete in Major League Soccer as part of the Generation adidas program.

Others in the group include Teal Bunbury and Blair Gavin of Akron, Corben Bone and Ike Opara of Wake Forest, and Amobi Okugo of UCLA. The Generation adidas program gives guaranteed contracts to promising young players.

The MLS draft is Jan. 14 in Philadelphia, and Tchani is expected to be among the first players chosen. As such, Tchani can expect to make “pretty good money,” Gelnovatch said.

A knee injury cut short Tchani’s first season at UVa, but he did enough to be named ACC freshman of the year.

As a sophomore, he was the second-leading scorer, with 20 points (8 goals and 4 assists), on a team that beat Akron in a penalty-kick shootout in the NCAA championship game.

The loss of Tchani, a first-team All-American in 2009, is a blow to the Wahoos, but “it could have been a lot worse, believe me,” Gelnovatch said.

Other pro prospects on the national-championship team included freshman Will Bates and sophomore Brian Ownby. Each will be back next season. A sports hernia (and national-team obligations) limited Ownby’s impact at UVa in 2009.

Whether forward Chris Agorsor, whose college career has been marred by injuries, will return for his junior season is uncertain. Gelnovatch plans to meet with him this month to discuss Agorsor’s plans.

Whatever Agorsor decides, Gelnovatch said, “I’m pretty happy with having Ownby and Bates back, and they still have not played together much at all. Having those guys back is going to be a fun thing.”

Jeff White

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