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By Tom Hurley | @TomHurleyKernel
Scoring your first career goal, setting a new program-high for wins, appearing in the NCAA Tournament on home soil and making the All-Conference USA second team.
How do you cap a season like that? By becoming the fourth player in UK history to be selected in a Major League Soccer draft.
Senior midfielder Cameron Wilder did just that Tuesday when FC Dallas selected him in the third round of the 2013 MLS Supplemental Draft.
“It’s crazy, an unbelievable opportunity,” Wilder said.
The 5-foot-7, 145-pound co-captain was in the middle of class when he learned of his selection.
“(The draft) was live during one of my classes,” he said. “I was like, man. I just had a peep down and refreshed the page on my phone and it said ‘FC Dallas Cam Wilder’ there, and I was just like, ah. I lost it. It was such an unreal feeling, just so surreal. And from then on I was just like, this is unbelievable.”
Going into the draft, Wilder had no idea that the Hoops, or any of the 19 MLS clubs for that matter, had definitive plans to select him.
“I knew it was a possible chance, knew my name was on the draft list, but I had no clue (I would get picked),” he said. “I was just shocked and just happy to get this opportunity, it’s just great, it’s great.”
On Tuesday morning, the Kennesaw, Ga., native was planning to spend the coming weeks in class working toward graduating in May.
On Tuesday afternoon, he was telling professors those plans would have to wait while he attends his first professional training camp.
“I emailed all of them and told them the deal, told them this is my dream,” Wilder said. “Hopefully things will work out, and you know, one step closer.”
Wilder took a call from FC Dallas management late Tuesday afternoon to begin making plans for his journey to Texas to join the team’s training camp, which started Monday.
“They want me to come out there soon as possible, so I guess I’ll be on my way,” he said.
UK head coach Johan Cedergren was delighted to see his co-captain get the chance to earn a professional contract.
“I’m really happy for him but at the same time I’m not surprised,” Cedergren said. “I think Cam is a player that can play at the next level. Cam is a player that was fantastic for us for the one season I had him and he’s a player that I wish I could get back.”
After opening training camp with two weeks of two-a-days, FCD travels to Mexico where it will play three preseason games.
Wilder’s first chance to make an impression in a Dallas jersey will be in the game with Mexican team Mérida CF on Feb. 6.
With Dallas selecting two other midfielders Tuesday, Cedergren said Wilder would have to work hard to earn a spot on the team’s opening day roster.
“There’s going to be one heck of a fight to earn a contract and get playing time for a team like FC Dallas,” Cedergren said. “Coach Schellas Hyndman used to coach at SMU (Southern Methodist University) so he knows college soccer. It’ll be interesting to follow Cam, see how he’s doing in preseason, and see how it goes.”
In four seasons with the Cats, Wilder played in 70 games, with 21 of his 49 career starts coming in his senior season — which was Cedergren’s first in Lexington.
“I’m not taking most of the credit for Cam’s development,” Cedergren said. “I think the previous staff, they were here for three years with Cam and Cam was a really good player before we got here and maybe we just tweaked a couple of things and we got it towork.”
Wilder joins Jason Griffiths, Andy Gruenebaum and Riley O’Neill on the list of Cats who have been drafted by MLS. Goalkeeper Gruenebaum remains in the league with the Columbus Crew, whom he won an MLS Cup with in 2008.
FC Dallas closes out its preseason schedule on Feb. 23, one week before its regular season opener against the Colorado Rapids on March 2.
By then Wilder will know if he will be sticking around in Texas for the 2013 season, but for now, he’s just happy to be that little bit closer to living his dream.
“I just want to make the best of it, hopefully make the team, do my best, work hard, and just keep going,” he said. “It’s just a small step and (there’s) a lot of work ahead.”