Conor Donovan was too preoccupied to watch the Major League Soccer SuperDraft Thursday.
Important business was at hand. The Fuquay-Varina native was on a bus from Kingston, Jamaica, to Montego Bay with the rest of the United States’ U20 team, so he was spared the draft day drama.
Donovan, a product of Cardinal Gibbons High and N.C. State, was projected to be a Top 5 pick.
Instead, expansion franchise Orlando City took him in the second round as the first pick.
When the bus stopped on the other end of the island and Wi-Fi was located, he saw what had happened and tweeted in celebration: “Finally able to tweet but what a day! Blessed and ready to start my career with @OrlandoCitySC. Looking forward to big things!”
Donovan, 19, went pro after one college season. He signed a Generation Adidas contract with MLS, which means he will not count towards the MLS roster limit and will have a chance to earn a higher salary than the league minimum.
Donovan played in one game for his hometown Carolina RailHawks last summer, but he signed a special amateur contract for that game, which kept him from accepting payment and kept his college eligibility intact. He scored in the 2-1 win against Puebla FC.
As a freshman, he started all 15 of the games he played for N.C. State and tallied one goal.
“The one thing I can say about him is he’s relentless. He’s very aggressive. He’s one of those down-and-dirty defenders who’s going to win the ball,” said Cardinal Gibbons coach Tim Healy, who coached Donovan as a freshman at Cardinal Gibbons. “Whether he makes a mistake or he does something well, he doesn’t take a play off.”
Donovan played sparingly at Gibbons as a freshman behind two other college-bound outside backs. He then landed a spot in the U.S. national team’s U17 camp with the IMG Academy in Florida and spent two years there.
As a senior, he had plans to return and play for Gibbons while graduating early. He had wanted to play his last year at Gibbons with his best friend, Ade Taiwo, but a preseason ACL injury put Taiwo out for the season. Plus, the amount of coursework it would take to graduate early proved to be too much.
Donovan ended up spending one semester at Fuquay-Varina High before enrolling at N.C. State.
Wherever Donovan has gone, Healy said, he has taken advantage of his opportunities and not let go.
“I just assume that will be his next progression,” Healy said. “He’ll grab hold of a starting spot in MLS and won’t let go.”
Among Donovan’s new teammates in Orlando are Brazillian star Kaká, U.S. national team player Brek Shea and MLS veterans Donovan Ricketts and Aurélien Collin.
“I’m just figuring out when I’m going to get down to Orlando,” Healy said.