CHICAGO — FC Cincinnati milked its first big Major League Soccer moment for all it was worth. The club held the first overall pick in Friday’s MLS SuperDraft, and had already wound down its allotted five minutes. Then, they piled a timeout on top of that.
UCLA freshman Frankie Amaya was sitting stage-right, just wishing those seconds would tick faster.
“With that timeout, I wanted the time to expire,” he said. “I wanted the name, whoever it was.
“Thankfully it was me.”
Amaya was eligible for selection after departing UCLA after only one season. The midfielder started 10 games as a true freshman last year, scoring two goals and adding two assists. He’s also spent time with the U.S. U-20 national team, starting on the team that won the CONCACAF U-20 Tournament.
The moment Amaya was selected seemed to briefly overwhelm him: He stepped to the podium upon the announcement from MLS commissioner Don Garber, but took a few moments to collect his thoughts. In the silence, one of the several FC Cincinnati fans in attendance yelled out, “Welcome to Cincinnati!”
“This is what I can’t wait for,” Amaya said, to more cheers. “Look at these amazing fans over here.”
Afterward, as Amaya bounced from media horde to media horde to answer questions, he said he already had conversations with Cincinnati’s coaching staff and that he felt “at home” there. FC Cincinnati, the league’s latest expansion team, will start play this year, in its inaugural MLS season.
To that brand-new club, Amaya will bring versatility and a creative flair that’s been on display both at UCLA and with the U-20 national team.
“My work rate, I think that would be my best skill,” he said. “Controlling the tempo of the game.”
Amaya’s time in soccer started at an early age: Growing up, he would watch a lot of Mexican soccer with his parents, who came to the U.S. from Mexico before Amaya was born. His dad played soccer at Santa Ana College, a community college in California.
It’s with his parents’ journey in mind that Amaya begins his professional career.
“I don’t think I really sacrificed that much; I think my parents sacrificed more, coming from Mexico,” Amaya said. “It was a hard journey for them. Thankfully I was born in the U.S. and my life was a bit easier than theirs, so I’m thankful for them for getting me here and making my life so much easier. … I couldn’t thank them enough. I never want to let them down, so I think I made a good step forward.”