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A Versatile Team Player: What to Expect from Philip Mayaka in MLS

January 22, 2021 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - Colorado Rapids News Release

Going into Thursday, the expected story for the MLS SuperDraft was well-worn. Philip Mayaka would have been the top pick in the draft in 2020 had he signed his Generation adidas contract then, and 2021 should be no different.

Mayaka was referred to multiple times by MLS pundits as "the most obvious number one pick in the draft since 2015." But when the time came, Austin FC chose Daniel Pereira with their first selection. At two, FC Cincinnati needed to address their issues at forward and selected Calvin Harris.

So, after trading into the top 10 and then again into the top three, the Rapids got a player said to be the most likely to make an immediate impact in the league in Mayaka,

"We're thrilled with how the draft went. We put a lot of emphasis, a lot of time into this draft," Smith said. "It goes back to our scouts following these players, not just this year, which has obviously been a strange season in the college game, but over a number of years, to really understand who we want, the type of player we want to bring in and why we want to bring them here."

Mayaka, who is originally from Kenya, played at Clemson for two years, and, before that, for Montverde Academy in Florida. Montverde Academy is a talent factory the Rapids are becoming increasingly familiar with, as it is the same place 2019 MLS Rookie of the Year Andre Shinyashiki played prior to the University of Denver.

"We identified a target that we felt would really add to this group, and we went out and got that player," Smith said

The list of accolades Mayaka quickly accrued at Clemson is lengthy. In 2019, he was named ACC Freshman of the Year and selected to the All-ACC First Team - an impressive feat, with this year's top five selections all coming from the ACC. He was also the only underclassman to be a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy, awarded to the nation's top men's and women's college soccer players, last year.

"Mayaka is the most MLS-ready player I have coached since being at Clemson," head coach Chris Noonan told "He has been a pleasure to coach, and any team would be happy to have him."

In terms of skillset, Smith compared him to Columbus Crew SC's Darlington Nagbe.

"He's a tenacious midfielder, he's good on both sides of the ball, which is very important to us, he can play that more defensive side and still be a box-to-box player as well," Smith said.

What may prove even more impressive are the intangibles he brings to the field. When asked about his number one skillset, Mayaka didn't mention his ability to move the ball comfortably through tight spaces.

"I bring a teamwork mentality. Teamwork mentality, working hard, helping each other," Mayaka said.

The 20-year-old appears ready to really settle in Colorado and make it his new home.

"My goals remain the same. To keep pushing, doing everything I can to help the team win championships, to make more friends in the Rapids family," Mayaka said.

The Rapids successful season last year, finishing fifth in the Western Conference, no doubt played a role in Mayaka's excitement. The Rapids were one of three teams that made the playoffs and had acquired a selection in the top ten, making them an appealing landing spot.

"I was happy to join a team that has been in MLS, has been doing good in MLS. I saw you guys in the playoffs last season, and I saw an opportunity to join a team of champions."

Mayaka is excited to get to know his new teammates and his new community.

"I'm a friendly person and a hard-working guy," Mayaka said. "A funny one, too, sometimes."

Mayaka's mentality combined with his clear on-field talent has him overflowing with potential. The Rapids made one selection in Thursday's draft, and they made sure that they got their guy.

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