Once shy immigrant rises from Bryan Station to pro soccer ranks

Mohamed Thiaw, a Bryan Station alumnus from Senegal who went on to play soccer at the University of Louisville, became the second player in two days with Lexington ties to be drafted into the professional ranks.

“Thank You @SJEarthquakes Can’t Wait To Get To Work!!” Thiaw said on Twitter after his selection.

Thiaw, a second team All-Atlantic Coast Conference player who scored 20 goals in his two-year career for the Cardinals, was taken with the 35th overall pick Friday by the San Jose Earthquakes in the Major League Soccer SuperDraft in Philadelphia.

“Thiaw has top-end talent. He needs to learn the mental part of the game,” MLS analyst and former player Bobby Warshaw said upon Thiaw’s selection during the online broadcast. Warshaw said he watched him in the MLS Combine where Thiaw had and assist during some of the action. “He needs to make better decisions, but, especially with that forward line, guys like Wondo (Chris Wondolowski), Vako, (Danny) Hoesen — not super athletic. Thiaw is a really athletic player and has some flair.”

Thiaw, the son of Malick Thiaw and Aida Ka and a native of Dakar, Senagal, played three years at Bryan Station highlighted by a 25-goal season his junior year, earning first-team all-state honors. However, an ACL injury wiped out his senior season.

After his recovery, Thiaw played for two seasons at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College where he was a National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-American each year before transferring to Louisville.

Thiaw’s selection comes a day after fellow Lexington high school player, Mallory Eubanks, a Tates Creek alumna, was chosen in the NWSL Draft by the Washington Spirit.

Transylvania University men’s coach Matt Vogel got to know Thiaw during his high school years as his coach for his select team, Lexington FC, and helped Thiaw on his path to college.

“You could just see it right away. He just had an innate ability to put the ball in the back of the net,” Vogel said.

Coming from Senegal, Vogel said Thiaw struggled with English and adapting to American culture, but he could understand and execute through example what he was being taught on the field as well as any player Vogel has coached. Now, with maturity, the shy kid Vogel knew has grown into an impressive and expressive young man.

“It’s a great moment for him. He didn’t have much when he came to America and college and getting into Cincinnati State and U of L was enormous, because now he’s going to have a college degree and he’s got a soccer career, as well,” Vogel said. “He was a guy who almost didn’t even play college soccer … (We told him) the soccer and getting good grades is the key to changing your life.”

Louisville teammate Tim Kubel of Stuttgart, Germany, went to defending MLS champion Toronto FC with the 28th pick.

“We’re so proud of Mo and Tim and the effort they made to make this achievement possible. We are pleased to have participated in their growth, which made their dreams a reality,” said Louisville head coach Ken Lolla. “They were so instrumental in building a culture of success. Both players were exceptional representatives of our program, Louisville athletics and the entire university.”