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While playing for the University of Virginia, Alecko Eskandarian enjoyed one of the most illustrious careers in the storied history of the Cavalier men’s soccer program.

Eskandarian is on the prestigious list of eight Cavaliers to ever earn National Player of the Year honors, as he was named the MAC Hermann Trophy Award winner, the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Player of the Year and the Soccer America Player of the Year in 2002.

In addition to honors, Eskandarian’s statistics as a Cavalier are equally impressive. His 113 goals in three years rank him sixth on the all-time list and his 25 goals in 2002 is the best single-season total in UVa history.

A two-time All-American, Eskandarian was selected as the No. 1 overall draft pick of the Major League Soccer (MLS) draft in 2003 by DC United.

His professional career can be described as just as successful as his collegiate one, as Eskandarian was named MLS Cup MVP in 2004 after leading DC United to the MLS Cup. He was a two-time MLS All-Star with 36 goals and 13 assists to his name.

After a series of concussions that left him unable to continue his professional career, Eskandarian returned to Virginia with the hopes of earning his degree and serving on head coach George Gelnovatch’s staff.

While taking classes during the 2010-11 academic year, Eskandarian was an undergraduate assistant coach with the men’s soccer team. Then in May, Eskandarian’s nine-year journey back to Virginia ended with him walking the Lawn to receive his degree.

“It has been a blessing and a dream come true for me to be able to return to Grounds and finally earn my degree with the Class of 2011,” Eskandarian said. “I enrolled over a decade ago, in 2000, and fell in love with Charlottesville and everything the University stands for. When I left in the Fall of 2002 with the opportunity to follow my dream of playing professional soccer, I made a promise to my mother and to myself that I would find a way to continue my studies and eventually earn my degree. I knew it would be difficult and would require a lot of sacrifice, but I did not want to settle for anything less.”

Now Eskandarian is moving forward with the next step of his career, having been recently named the Philadelphia Union’s Youth Technical Director.

In his new role, Eskandarian will oversee the club’s academy under the direction of coach John Hackworth. He will also assist in MLS Reserve League competition, as well as help manage club partnerships in the region.

“I am extremely excited to join the Philadelphia Union family as it is a first-class organization from top to bottom with a passionate fan base,” said Eskandarian. “Not only are the Union dedicated to being one of the top clubs in MLS today, they have placed a strong emphasis on building for the future. The foundation for a world-class youth academy is already in place, and I look forward to using my experience to help take it to the next level.”

Gelnovatch echoes his now fellow Virginia graduate’s thoughts.

“I am really happy and proud of Alecko,” Gelnovatch said. “He has been working hard during his professional soccer career to continue to work toward earning his degree. It was important to him to make sure that he graduated from the University of Virginia. When his soccer career was shortened from multiple concussions, he decided that it was the right time to come back and finish school. It was great to have him around for a full academic year. I know our players loved having him around the program helping coach. Alecko is one of several former professional soccer players that have come back to UVa over the years to complete their degree. He’s another one that I can check off the list.”

“While playing for DC United, I spent a full semester commuting the four-hour roundtrip from DC to Charlottesville after practice in order to earn credits,” Eskandarian said. “Anyone that has sat through DC rush hour traffic knows how much commitment that takes. Part of my reasoning was because UVa is such a prestigious university with a great reputation in academics. Another part was believing in the mantra ‘finish what you started’ and the feeling that I owed it to the University and to myself to take advantage of the opportunity it had provided me 11 years earlier.”

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