Former men’s soccer student-athlete Daryl Dike was the fifth overall pick of the 2020 MLS SuperDraft by Orlando City SC. Just this past Fall, Dike and his teammates reached the program’s 13th NCAA College Cup and played in the National Championship match, falling in penalty kicks to Georgetown. Dike was named the College Cup’s Most Outstanding Offensive Player after scoring three goals in two games. As a striker, he was recognized as a Third Team All-American by three separate publications after totaling 28 points (10 goals, 8 assists) in 2019.
Q: It seems that we’re getting closer and closer to things returning to normal beginning with MLS clubs opening up training facilities. What has the first couple of weeks of post-quarantine training looked like and what exactly can you get done? And do you think you did a good job of staying prepared physically to get going again?
Dike: The first couple weeks post quarantine has been very different than any training I had ever done. We train individually on a field. The coaches and staff set up many cones and drills for us to do and we work through them together. The field is divided in to four grids and each player has their own quadrant to work with. We may not be able to pass to other people or shoot on goalkeepers, but we are able to get many things done and make sure the sessions are productive. We improve with the supervision of our coaches. We did a very good job at staying prepared physically. The staff gave us many exercises and drills to stay in good physical shape.

Q: You went from being a college student-athlete and playing in the National Championship game to signing a Generation Adidas deal that ultimately led to you being selected fifth overall in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft all in a month’s time. Describe what a whirlwind December and January were for you.
Dike: Going from living in Charlottesville and playing for the NCAA Championship to living in Orlando playing for Orlando City SC in one month is a big change for me. It was fantastic to get drafted in the presence of all my family and friends. When every kid is young, they dream about playing professionally. This was a dream come true for my family, friends, coaches, and me. We had all worked very hard to achieve it. It has also been a crazy experience to play with some of the top soccer players including iconic players like Luis Nani.

Q: In your abbreviated start to your professional career, what has been you biggest adjustment that you have had to make going  from the college game to the professional game?
Dike: The biggest adjustment is the speed of play. The players in a professional environment think and play quicker. This is something I had to quickly adjust to to keep up with the other players. The team is very accepting. They understood the rookies were new to this gameplay and would need help adjusting. They and the coaches helped us rookies, to adjust quickly and smoothly.

Q: How do you think playing at a program like Virginia helped you in the very early stages of your professional career?
Dike: Virginia prepared me for the professional game. Coach George (Gelnovatch), (Matt) Chulis, and (Ryan) Hopkins all did a very good job at preparing the players for the professional game. The players at Virginia were also some of the best players in the country, so training with them helped prepare me for the incredible players I would play with in the future.
Q: As a sophomore this past fall at UVA, you led the team in goals with 10. Are there any in particular that are most memorable for you?
Dike: The most memorable goal was the goal in the NCAA final. We were down one goal with about five minutes left in the game and Axel (Gunnarsson) played a great ball across and I scored. It gave the team a big push to go into overtime and then later penalties.

Q: Although the result was not what you wanted but last year’s team reached college soccer’s pinnacle. When you look back what will you take away from your College Cup experience in December?
Dike: I will remember the experience of being able to play with my closest friends on the big stage. We put in a lot of work to get to the NCAA Championship and to be able to get there and represent Virginia on the big stage is an unforgettable moment.

Q: You were part of one of the most successful teams in UVA history, 21 wins, ACC Champions, National finalist etc. What made the 2019 team so special and why do you think you guys were successful?
Dike: The reason our team was successful was because we were a family. All the players were so close and whether you were on the field or off it, you felt that you could make an impact. Every player played for each other because to each other, we were a family and brothers. 

Q: Are there any particular defenders you look forward to having the opportunity to play against as a professional? Maybe one on the say from the New England Revolution or the Columbus Crew?
Dike: Two players I would love playing against are Henry Kessler of New England Revolution and Aboubacar Keita of Columbus Crew. Both of them are very good players and some of my closest friends. Henry was one of the leaders during my sophomore season and Aboubacar Keita was my roommate during my freshman season. I hope to play against them, because I never got the opportunity to play against them competitively. I think it would be a good matchup.  
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