State standouts taken on Day 1 of MLS Draft

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

While Detroit still awaits word on whether it'll be entering Major League Soccer, the wait is over for five college players from Michigan.

Michigan forward Francis Atuahene was selected No. 4 overall by Dallas in the MLS Super Draft.

Michigan forward Francis Atuahene was selected No. 4 overall by FC Dallas in the MLS Draft, which began with the first two rounds Friday and resumed with the final two rounds Sunday.

Western Michigan defender Brandon Bye was drafted No. 8 overall by the New England Revolution, and his college teammate, goalkeeper Drew Shepherd, was selected No. 46 overall by Toronto FC.

Atuahene is the 10th Wolverine to be drafted into MLS, and his story is a fascinating one -- having grown up in Accra, Ghana. He was Big Ten freshman of the year in 2015, and finished his career with the third-most goals in program history, 24. He was sixth overall in career points, with 59.

He was the highest-drafted Wolverine in MLS history, and the third first-rounder.

During an emotional speech at the draft in Philadelphia, Atuahene thanked his mother and grandmother back in Ghana.

"For raising me and teaching me the importance of listening. I owe them everything," he said, the Dallas FC scarf wrapped around his neck.
"It's been a very long journey to get here today."

Dallas FC acquired the pick in a trade with the Montreal Impact on Friday.

Bye became the second Western Michigan player drafted, and Shepherd the third.

Bye was the Mid-American Conference player of the year this past season, as the Broncos won their first-ever regular-season championship.

He led the conference with 12 goals and 31 points, and had six game-winning goals, seventh-most in Division I.

Bye's stock reportedly rose significantly in recent days, as he excelled at the MLS Combine in Orlando, Fla. — so much so, he was on site in Philadelphia to hear his name called.

"I'm excited," Bye, a Kalamazoo native, told reporters on site. "I was just anxious to see where I ended up. I'm excited to see what happens."

Shepherd, an Ann Arbor Huron graduate, was 16-3-1 in goal for Western Michigan this season, posting 13 shutouts -- good for third in Division I.

The four-year starter set single-season program records for wins, shutouts and consecutive shutouts (six), as well as career shutouts (29).

Two more state players were drafted Sunday, with Michigan State midfielder Ken Krolicki going in the third round (53rd overall) to the Montreal Impact, and Oakland defenseman Wilfred Williams going in the fourth round (82nd overall) to Sporting Kansas City.