In the lobby of the Hampton Inn in Clermont, Fla., Vaughan Azzurri Technical Director Patrice Gheisar watched as the greatest day in club history unfolded.
With the fourth overall pick in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft, the Vancouver Whitecaps selected Ryan Raposo from Syracuse.
With the 11th overall pick, Nashville selected Alistair Johnston from Wake Forest.
With the 19th overall pick, Toronto FC selected Nyal Higgins from Syracuse.
With the 20th overall pick, Real Salt Lake selected Dayonn Harris from Connecticut.
Four Canadians in the first 20 picks of the MLS SuperDraft, and all came from the same club team -- Vaughan Azzurri.
"Amazing. It is the biggest day in our club's history. Nothing else is even close," said Gheisar, who was some 1,500 miles away from the celebrations in Canada. He was with the next generation of Vaughan Azzurri college -- and one-day pro -- hopefuls. The club's 02 team is competing in the Montverde Academy Soccer Tournament in Florida, an event that serves as the end of the season for Vaughn's program.
This year's MLS SuperDraft was the first to be held exclusively via conference call and web streaming.
Had Gheisar been in Canada on Thursday, he said there would have been one group party. Instead, Raposo, Johnston, Higgins and Harris each held their own gathering. But Gheisar wasn't going to miss out on making it a club event -- even from afar.
He gathered the 02 team -- which includes four current NCAA Division I commits, with more on the way -- in the lobby to watch the live streaming of the draft.
A loud cheer went up when Raposo was taken with the fourth pick. There was some grumbling as teams passed over Johnston, but again the 02s cheered when Johnston went with the 11th pick overall.
"We talk about club culture and being a family," Gheisar said. "Just last Sunday, Alistair was training with these guys (the 02s). Not only do our (youth players) see them (Vaughan’s drafted players), but they know them. It starts the brotherhood."
The later selections of Higgins and Harris mean Vaughan Azzurri has produced six MLS SuperDraft first-round picks over the last two years.
In the excitement of the day, which also included a Vaughan Azzurri 02 win to advance to the MAST semifinals, Gheisar took a moment to soak in the accomplishment.
"This feels great," he said. "This is all about the club, but for me personally, all the time I put in and the sacrifices I make, this makes it all worthwhile. We're trying to provide opportunities for young men. … Now, these young men have been given an opportunity."
Gheisar added that such success in placing student-athletes in college and then seeing them get drafted into a professional league will reinforce the club's mission.
"It shows our players, our parents, our supporters, all of the things we tell them and all of the things we ask them to do can allow for a pathway for them (into college or professional soccer)."
Gheisar said, "We’re just a little club," but on this day no one stood taller.