January 29, 2004

Pilarski Catches Fire; Selected in MLS Superdraft

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Temperatures in Ithaca may be pushing into the subzero range, but for senior midfielder Ian Pilarski things are just starting to heat up.

After a successful soccer career on the East Hill, Pilarski became the first player in Cornell history to be picked in the MLS SuperDraft, held on January 16 in Charlotte. Pilarski was selected in the fifth round by the Chicago Fire with the 49th overall pick. He will join a Fire squad coached by Dave Sarachan ’76, who is also the assistant coach of the U.S. World Cup team. Sarachan also served as the head coach of Cornell men’s soccer from 1989-1997.

“I’m extremely excited about being drafted by Chicago. It’s been my dream since I was younger to play professional soccer, and this opportunity will allow me to get started on a career,” said Pilarski.

At the beginning of January, Pilarski participated in the 2004 Infosport Pro Soccer combine held in Florida. The combine staff included current and former MLS coaches. Over 150 players attended the combine, and Pilarski was the only player from an Ivy League school. Denis Hamlett, the assistant coach of the Chicago Fire, was Pilarski’s coach at the combine, and was very impressed with his soccer skills.

“Chicago had been interested in him for a while and was tracking him during the fall season,” said Cornell head coach Bryan Scales. “His performance in January just confirmed to them that he was a player that they wanted to draft. As a program, we are all very proud of him. He is a great representative of Cornell Soccer. He has always had a goal of becoming a pro and this is a outstanding opportunity for him.”

Pilarski now faces the challenge of training for the MLS and completing his final semester at Cornell. After an intense training schedule during the break, he is now working out with the Cornell men’s team.

“This opportunity is going to require being away from school at different times during the semester, but I’m excited for the challenge,” said Pilarski. “Also, being surrounded with some of the best soccer players in America will be an experience in itself. It’s going to be a different second semester senior year than I expected, but I’m fortunate for this opportunity.”

Sarachan went through a similar situation when he was a student at Cornell, and Pilarski is looking forward to training under a Cornell alumnus.

“It’s awesome that Cornell has an alumnus in a high rank in professional sports. Dave has done wonderful things for the Chicago Fire, and I hope I can contribute to their success as well,” said Pilarski.

A first team All-Ivy and second team All-Region selection this season, Pilarski served as one of the team’s tri-captains in 2003. His 15 assists ranks him fourth all-time in program history. In his sophomore year, Pilarski racked up a team-high seven assists, and was named an All-Ivy Honorable Mention. In 2002, he was named to the All-Ivy second team.

For the past two summers, Pilarski has been a member of the Premier Development League’s Cape Cod Crusaders, and helped the team capture back-to-back national titles.

14-year old Freddy Adu was taken with the first overall pick by the D.C. United, and four other players were taken from Ivy League schools. Kevin Ara of Harvard, the first Ivy player selected, was taken in the third round. Brown’s Adom Crew, the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year, was taken with the first pick of the fifth round.

“The Ivy League was the only league in the country to have over half of its schools represented with selections in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft. This speaks to the quality of the players in our league and again confirms the fact that the Ivy League can be a vehicle for players who aspire to become professional soccer players and get a great education,” said Scales.

Archived article by Jonathan Auerbach

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