Major League Soccer

Clemson's Robbie Robinson the No. 1 pick in MLS SuperDraft

(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

By ANNE M. PETERSON

AP Sports Writer

Forward Robbie Robinson out of Clemson was the first overall pick Thursday in the Major League Soccer SuperDraft by Inter Miami.

Robinson, who won the MAC Hermann Trophy as the nation's top college player, had 18 goals and nine assists this season as a junior. He was also named the ACC Offensive Player of the Year.

Soon after he was selected, Robinson was connected via Skype with David Beckham, part of Inter Miami's ownership group and the team's president of soccer operations. The expansion team is preparing for its first MLS season.

Robinson was clearly taken aback when he saw the English legend.

“That was crazy. It was kind of surreal looking at him because I've watched him my whole life,” Robinson told The Associated Press afterward. “So for him to be on a call with me, and his belief in me that I could be a player that can help this team along with everyone else that's at Inter Miami, it is crazy. And it gives me that much more confidence to go out there and do what I can do and work for this team.”

Robinson announced in late December that he would forgo his senior season with the Tigers.

Robinson is described as a dynamic and versatile forward who can score with either foot or his head. Growing up, he said he admired Cristiano Ronaldo and hopes to emulate the Portuguese star's work ethic.

“I really loved his mentality, the way he approaches the game, his discipline off the field, the way he works harder than everyone else. That just shows he's there for a reason, because the hard work paid off,” Robinson said.

Miami joins Nashville as expansion teams for the league's 25th anniversary season.

Nashville took center back Jack Maher out of Indiana with the second pick in the draft.

Maher, a sophomore last season with the Hoosiers, signed a Generation adidas contract with MLS, as did Robinson.

Nashville general manager Mike Jacobs and team supporters went to Maher's home in St. Louis to surprise him when the pick was announced.

"I had no idea. It was crazy. I don't even know how they kept it from us," said Maher, who later joined the team's fans to celebrate at a local restaurant.

Maher said he had hoped to play for Nashville because he enjoyed the vibe of the city after working out with the club for a couple of weeks last summer.

He said he's inspired by his older brother, J.D. Maher, who was unable to play sports because of two liver transplants as a child. The older Maher brother is currently in law school.

“I mean, he's been such an important piece of my life up until now, and I've understood that, just through J.D., that some people just aren't as fortunate. They have obstacles," Maher said. "For me to see him each and every day and how hard he works, not only in school, but just being the best brother and my biggest fan as well. That just speaks volumes, really, to the person that he is that he was able to really impact my life as big as he did.”

Nashville opens the 2020 season at home on Feb. 29 against Atlanta United.

Miami makes its MLS debut on March 1 at Los Angeles FC. The home opener at the team’s newly constructed home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is March 14 against the LA Galaxy.

Miami also had the third pick in the draft, and used it to take Georgetown defender Dylan Nealis, the younger brother of New York Red Bulls defender Sean Nealis.

Nashville traded for two additional first-round picks, selecting defender Alistair Johnston out of Wake Forest at No. 11 and goalkeeper Elliot Panicco out of UNC Charlotte at No. 13.

The first two rounds of the draft were held Thursday. The remaining two rounds will be conducted via conference call on Monday.

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Updated January 9, 2020

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