In the third round of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, FC Dallas selected VCU men’s soccer defender Dakota Barnathan as the 59th overall draft pick on Jan. 17.
Over the last five years, five VCU players were drafted and the selection of Barnathan marks the third straight Black and Gold player selected on draft day.
Barnathan follows former teammates Dennis Castillo (Colorado Rapids, 2016) and Kharlton Belmar (Portland Timbers, 2015) to the professional ranks. In 2013, two additional former VCU players earned a selection. Jason Johnson went 13th overall to the Houston Dynamo and Montreal Impact picked up Juan Arbelaez in the MLS Supplemental Draft. According to VCU coach Dave Giffard, Barnathan is the 22nd player to go on to play at the next level since he assumed the position as head coach.
“It’s a reflection of the fact that we develop players here to move on to accomplish their goals to play at the next level,” Giffard said. “Dakota has put in a lot of hard work, like a lot of guys do, and developed a lot over his four and half years with us and was prepared and ready to make the next step in his journey.”
VCU is in the midst of a stretch of success when it comes to producing professional athletes, and Giffard attributes a lot to the culture he and his staff have been able to instill at the university.
“What we do does a good job at the college level of helping guys to continue to improve and develop,” Giffard said. “By the time they are ready to head out hopefully we’ve given them the best chance they can to reach their aspirations, which, for most of the guys is to play at the next level.”
Barnathan started since sophomore year and named captain the past two seasons. While Giffard admits the graduation of a leader and good player can be tough, he said that’s nothing new for the Rams and now new players have to step up.
“That’s what you do here,” Giffard said. “You don’t get to keep guys for 10 years; you get to keep guys for a year to four and a half depending upon their eligibility and when the time comes for them to make the move to the next level.”
VCU will inevitably miss Barnathan’s versatility. The Massapequa, New York native was a jack-of-all-trades for the Rams, and played a host of different positions including centerback, defensive midfield, and left and right back.
“There were times here if we were chasing the game late, or behind, or tied, we would push him forward and often times he was productive in front of the team too,” Giffard said. “I just think he’s a very versatile player so if you look at specifically what the team will miss from [Dakota] being gone, I think you miss a guy who after redshirting his first year has been almost a four year starter. We’ll miss a guy who’s played in 80 plus games against very good competition and you’ll miss a guy who this past season was a very good central defender and senior leader for us.”
In his time at VCU, Barnathan helped guide the Rams to two consecutive Atlantic 10 Conference Championship games and in his senior season earned All-Tournament recognition. He concluded his VCU career totaling nine goals and eight assists for 26 points.
Giffard found Dakota’s unique style of leadership highly successful because of his ability to be relatable to his teammates.
“What made Dakota such an effective leader was a little bit more of a human factor,” Giffard said. “He was an effective player, he worked very hard every day in training, in the weight room, whatever it might be, but then he was very relatable to a lot of the guys on the team because he’s flawed, just like we’re all flawed, so it’s easy for guys to look at him and say, ‘Alright, I’ve got a lot of respect for Dakota. He’s like me.’”
Barnathan’s work ethic was his calling card during his time wearing black and gold, and Giffard has no doubt this will lead to success for him at the next level.
“I think regardless of what you look like, what your background is like, where you’re from, how you go about your business, it’s easy to respect a guy who comes and works every day,” said Coach Giffard.
Adrian Wilson, Contributing Writer