Jack Harrison, NYCFC Take Roundabout Way to Draft-Day Marriage

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJanuary 15, 2016

Jan 14, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Jack Harrison speaks the the media after being selected number one overall by the Chicago Fire, then traded to New York City FC during the 2016 MLS SuperDraft at Baltimore Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

BALTIMORE — Ten minutes before the 2016 MLS SuperDraft began inside the Baltimore Convention Center, New York City FC director of football operations Claudio Reyna didn't think he'd get the player he wanted. 

After a string of trades between the clubs near the top of the draft board, the cards fell in NYCFC's favor just as commissioner Don Garber began his opening address. 

“I would say 10 minutes before the first pick, we thought we had no chance of getting (Jack Harrison) to be honest," Reyna told reporters after the madness of the first round ended. "It was as close as that as far as us knowing we had an opportunity as the other trades played out between Philadelphia and Colorado, and conversations I had with Philadelphia and Chicago. It was actually when Don (Garber) started speaking when we were trying to confirm the trade with Chicago." 

NYCFC and the Chicago Fire had to wait almost an hour for the deal to become official. While both sides waited for the specifics to be ironed out, No. 1 overall pick Jack Harrison stood in the waiting area next to the stage with a Chicago Fire scarf draped around his neck. 

Jan 14, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Jack Harrison shakes speaks at the podium after being selected number one overall by the Chicago Fire during the 2016 MLS SuperDraft at Baltimore Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

As the deal was being finalized, Philadelphia made moves of its own by acquiring the second-overall pick from Colorado and selecting Georgetown defender Joshua Yaro. Minutes later, the Union picked right-back Keegan Rosenberry. While the Georgetown and Philadelphia teammates were celebrating, Harrison waited for the call. 

"Me and my mom were just standing there like what’s going on. It’s a whirlwind but I’m looking forward to making that next step now," Harrison said. "There’s not much you can do really, its kind of just sitting around, waiting, and I’m glad this opportunity came up." 

NYCFC attempted to bring Harrison in as a homegrown player before the draft, but the argument the club made did not satisfy Major League Soccer's homegrown standards, per Fox Soccer's Kyle McCarthy.

Harrison with MLS commissioner Don Garber on stage before the trade was announced.
Harrison with MLS commissioner Don Garber on stage before the trade was announced.Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

"It wasn’t really important [the connection between Manhattan PSG and NYCFC]," Harrison said. "I would’ve been happy going anywhere. Like I said, I’m just so happy to be here, so grateful for this opportunity. The fact that it’ll be in New York City is something special, but it would’ve been nice going anywhere really." 

The unsuccessful attempt to secure Harrison's signature before Thursday's selection process led to the pursuit of the Wake Forest product in the days leading up to the draft. 

When Harrison and the NYCFC brass entered the room on Thursday, neither side was aware they would be partnered by the end of the day. But now that Harrison will be wearing sky blue in MLS in 2016, his fight for playing time is about to begin. 

Harrison is an attack-minded player, but he is not sure what his exact position will be at the professional level. 

"Well I think that’s something I’ll have to find out," Harrison said. "I’ll have to get the coach’s perspective on that. I’m an attacking player, I like going at defenders one-on-one. I like to assist just as much as score goals. I get just as much satisfaction out of that as well. Hopefully I’ll be able to do that and earn my spot at New York City." 

Jan 14, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Jack Harrison shakes hands at the podium after being selected number one overall by the Chicago Fire during the 2016 MLS SuperDraft at Baltimore Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

"I played four years of center attacking mid at Berkshire School, and obviously I played wide at Wake Forest, so its whatever the team needs really," the new NYCFC player continued. "I’m happy to serve them and hopefully I can do it well." 

Although his specific position isn't set yet, Reyna believes Harrison is in the right environment to thrive at the next level. 

“We think it’s the perfect environment for him," Reyna said. "He wanted to come to us and we’re excited that he wants to pay us back for what we’ve done to get him. Of course being around those guys (like Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard and David Villa) is going to be incredible for him."

"He’s a great kid who wants to learn more," Reyna said. "He knows he has so much to learn and he’s also got this confidence that you need to be able to help us right away. We can’t wait to improve him, build him and develop him." 

If all goes right for the player and club that wanted to form a relationship on Thursday, the collaboration between the two parties may produce a Rookie of the Year candidate in 2016. 

Joe Tansey covers MLS for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @JTansey90.

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 

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