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Remembering a Former Drafted Player

A personal connection to a former player drafted by the club in the past.

Ned Dishman/Getty Images

Well another MLS Super Draft has come and gone as those who have come from all over the country as well as those from foreign nations either north of our border or from overseas that attended colleges inside the United States are hoping to get their professional Soccer career started as they are being drafted by MLS Clubs.

Of course no one knows how these players will be able to get into the first team so fast but they will probably get plenty of time with the Red Bulls USL Side as RBNY 2 probably got stronger for their 2016 season. It looks like Zach Carroll & Justin Bilyen will make excellent additions to the organization and hope they have a great start to their young careers.

But I can lay claim to a former draft pick who played for the club back in the 1999 season as the club was known as Metro brought over a young striker who was forced to become a defender due to the fact that it was the only way he could make the squad. That players name is Nansha Kalonji as he wore #2 and was able when called upon to be apart of the attack.

In his brief and only season in Major League Soccer Kalonji was able to convert once and assisted twice in just nineteen appearances in league play and one of those assists was a perfect back heel flick that created a chance against the New England Revolution at the former Foxborough Stadium which of course is no more. Or his lone tally was against DC United on the road at RFK and sadly was where he picked up a terrible leg injury that ended his season.

After being cut by the club he played two more years for the Carolina Dynamo in 2002 & 2003 after he finished his rehab, but decided to go into coaching as he went back to College Soccer and began his career at New Jersey City University for three seasons from 2004-2006. He also served as a head coach for Teaneck High School in Teaneck, NJ before going into the college ranks.

How do I know about this man that was a one season wonder? Because Kalonji and I attened Ramapo College in Mahwah, NJ. For four seasons he tore up the NJAC (New Jersey Athletic Conference) from 1994 thru 1997 and scored some fantastic goals that got the students, parents and the fans out of their seats. In the 1996 season Kalonji lead Ramapo College to their first Post Season trophy as they advanced to the ECAC Division III championship and got the school it's first Men's soccer title.

But a fantastic 1997 saw the school get selected for it's first NCAA Men's Soccer Division III tournament and while Kalonji scored the opening goal at home, sadly it wasn't enough as their opponents equalized late in the 1st half and scored the eventual match winner just five minutes before the match ended. (No stoppage time in NCAA College Soccer as the referee stops the clock for injury, goals scored & substitutions).

I was a TV Productions major at Ramapo College and I had the delight to not just record these games for the College's TV Channel, but I was also the play-by-play voice for the games and in 1997 it was a pleasure to see him convert many chances and celebrate on the field. If you are wondering if I got his shirt after a match? The answer was yes and when the 1999 team was having their fan meet and great at the former All-Star Cafe in Times Square that was once part owned by Wayne Gretzky, I saw him and told him how happy I was for him making the squad.

So while it is a great day to celebrate the sport in the USA and as this Super Draft has been aligned with the NSCAA during their conventions and I bet parts of the Once a Metro crew who was able to get to Baltimore and had a lot of fun, it's nice to see the future of the sport moving from the college game to the professional game get highlighted big time. It also reminded me about a good friend who worked so hard and got to the top of the mountain for at least one season.