CHICAGO — Anderson Asiedu was recognized as one the best collegiate players in the country when he received an invite to the 2019 MLS Combine. Sounds good, but it becomes more impressive when you learn that he spent his two years at UCLA playing, in his words, the wrong position.
“I wasn’t doing the job that would let people notice who I am,” Asiedu, who was selected on Friday with the final pick of the first round by Atlanta United in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft, said. “I got an opportunity to prove myself at the Combine. This is who I am and this is who I want to be.”
Asiedu said he was usually deployed as an attacking midfielder by Bruins coach Jorge Salcedo, but instead considers himself best suited as a deeper-lying, more defensive midfielder. He takes joy in doing the hard work that doesn’t show up on most stat sheets.
“I love to win the ball, because when we have the ball we have everything,” Asiedu said with an ear-to-ear grin. “When I win the ball, I let [my teammates] do their thing.”
His ball-winning abilities earned him the title of 2019 MLS Combine MVP, and the rise of his draft stock over the past week fits well into a career that has been on the fast-track to success.
Asiedu grew up in a small village in Ghana and was given the opportunity to move to the United States as a teenager by a soccer coach at St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark, NJ. His skills earned him a scholarship to Monmouth University, but Asiedu still aspired to greater heights.
“At Monmouth I realized that the competitiveness of the soccer wasn’t there,” he said. “I could just sit at Monmouth and think everything was fine, but I needed a challenge and needed to elevate myself.”
UCLA offered him that challenge, and his performances in 34 games for the Bruins over the course of his junior and senior seasons proved enough to attract attention from MLS scouts.
With Atlanta coming off an MLS Cup win in just their second season, Asiedu said he knows breaking into the team will be difficult. However, he views it as just another challenge.
“I’m excited because not just any team picked me, the best team in the country picked me,” he said. “I’m willing to go out and put in the work because with all this opportunity I need to go out and prove myself and show I can do it.”