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Midfielder signs with Generation adidas, will attend SuperDraft in Baltimore Friday with senior Buckeyes

COLUMBUS, Ohio Ohio State junior midfielder Roger Espinoza has signed with Generation adidas, which guarantees a Major League Soccer contract for three years, and will attend the MLS SuperDraft Friday in Baltimore. Espinoza is one of 10 Generation adidas signees who are giving up all or part of their collegiate eligibility.

Espinoza will join OSU senior All-Americans Xavier Balc and Eric Brunner along with head coach John Bluem in attendance at the SuperDraft Friday. ESPN2 will televise the first hour of the draft live, which begins at 2 p.m. at the Baltimore Convention Center.

The Buckeyes won the Big Ten and advanced to the national championship game last season, finishing 17-4-5 overall. Balc and Brunner became the first first-team All-Americans in program history and recently attended the MLS combine with Espinoza and senior goalkeeper Casey Latchem, which ended Tuesday.

“We are very happy for Roger,” Bluem said. “It has been his dream was to play professional soccer and he was determined to go to school at Ohio State and get as close as possible to earning his degree. Generation adidas contracts are substantially more lucrative than normal rookie contracts and they set aside money for taking classes later to finish a degree. This is an incredible opportunity for Roger and although we’ll miss him, we wish him the very best.”

Espinoza played two seasons of junior college soccer at Yavapai College in Phoenix before transferring to Ohio State. He was named first-team All-Big Ten in 2007 and second-team all-region before earning a spot the NCAA College Cup All-Tournament Team with two spectacular performances in Cary, N.C. For the season, Espinoza contributed three assists and totaled three goals, including the first goal in the national championship game against Wake Forest to put the Buckeyes ahead, 1-0.

“This is something I have been waiting for my whole life,” Espinoza said. “When I got the opportunity to sign with Generation adidas, I talked to Coach Bluem and he said go for it. This is an unbelievable opportunity and he is supporting me. I am very grateful to the coaches for the recruiting me and for giving me the chance to come to Ohio State. I am also very grateful for my teammates I wouldn’t be in this position without them. This was the best season of my life.”

Seven Buckeyes have been MLS draft picks this decade, the highest of which were third-round selections Kyle Veris (defender, LA Galaxy) and Ray Burse Jr. (goalkeeper, F.C. Dallas) in 2005.

Live coverage of the SuperDraft also will be available at www.MLSnet.com, which features draft order and draft previews along with video features of many players who will likely be drafted. The SuperDraft is comprised of four rounds, followed by the supplemental draft Jan. 24.

Forty-seven of the nation’s top collegiate seniors, including Balc, Brunner and Latchem, attended the MLS combine Jan. 11-15 at Lockhart Stadium in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and were joined by the Generation adidas signees, including Espinoza.

2008 MLS SUPERDRAFT
When: Friday, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: Baltimore (Md.) Convention Center
Who: Attending from Ohio State will be head coach John Bluem, seniors Eric Brunner and Xavier Balc and junior Roger Espinoza
Television: First hour live on ESPN2
Internet: Complete coverage all day at www.MLSnet.com

FROM THE MLS ABOUT GENERATION ADIDAS
The players who join MLS as part of the Generation adidas program receive unprecedented opportunities to develop their game and hone their skills at the professional level in Major League Soccer. In addition to training and playing with one of Major League Soccer’s 14 professional clubs, Generation adidas players receive educational grants to further their college education. Additional Generation adidas player signings may occur prior to the 2008 MLS Season. 

Highlighting this year’s class are seven players that have experience with the U.S. Youth National Teams and a finalist for this year’s MAC Hermann Trophy, college soccer’s version of the Heisman Trophy.  Six of the nine players are leaving college early to enter the MLS SuperDraft – Eric Avila (UC Santa Barbara), Tony Beltran (UCLA), Chance Myers (UCLA), Patrick Nyarko (Virginia Tech), Ciaran O’Brien (UC Santa Barbara) and Rob Valentino (Univ. of South Florida). Three players Josh Lambo (Chicago Magic FC), Alex Nimo (FC Portland) and Brek Shea (Texans FC) are high school students who are foregoing their college eligibility to sign professional contracts.

### OhioStateBuckeyes.com ###

Contact: Tim Stried, stried.3@osu.edu