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MLS DRAFT: Galaxy's grasp exceeds reach

The Galaxy were plesantly surprised that Kenney Walker was available to them at the end of the second round. Major League Soccer

Tommy Meyer had been a Galaxy defender all of five minutes before the tweet landed. Landon Donovan, from the other side of the Atlantic, officially welcomed Meyer to the club with a simple “Let's welcome [Meyer] to the Galaxy family/defense!” on his Twitter account.

Meyer, a 6-foot-2 central defender from Indiana University whom L.A nabbed with the final selection of the first round in Thursday's MLS SuperDraft, hadn't even had a chance to read it -- just texts from friends telling him about it (and expressing shock he was joining the biggest soccer club in America) -- when he made the gantlet of media calls, but it certainly got the point home: He wasn't going just anywhere.

“There are world-class players there, with Landon and [David] Beckham and Robbie Keane,” Meyer, 22, told ESPN Los Angeles. “Those are players I grew up watching. The chance to get to train with them, you couldn't ask for more than that. ... It's definitely something I didn't expect, but I'm really excited to get to work, and to join the team that won MLS Cup is definitely something.”

Kenney Walker got the treatment an hour or so later -- Donovan's tweet: “And finally, welcome Kenney Walker to the family!” -- as the Galaxy wrapped a productive day that turned out better than they thought it would.

Galaxy coach Bruce Arena says a center back was always in the plans, even before Omar Gonzalez tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last week at the start of his FC Nuremberg loan. Meyer was considered one of the better second-level central defenders in the draft.

Walker, a skillful central midfielder out of Louisville, was the surprise prize. The Galaxy's coach didn't expect him to still be around when the 38th (and final) pick in the SuperDraft came around.

Mayer, Arena says, has “has all the characteristics to become a good professional. ... We wanted a center back with physical characteristics. ... Tommy is a very impressive young man, a bright kid, confident, with a burning desire to be successful. I walked away from our meeting [at the MLS Player Combine] feeling very good about him.”

Walker, primarily a defensive midfielder with skill and creative instinct, “absolutely impressed me during the combine,” Arena said. “One of the better players on the whole. He just played really well. I was surprised he wasn't picked in the first round.”

Gonzalez, had he not been hurt (and once healthy), appears destined for Europe, and Juninho's departure, even with the arrival of Brazilian Marcelo Sarvas, leaves a hole in midfeld. Meyer and Walker hope they can contribute right away, but they're moves for the future, providing depth while maturing into productive professionals under the tutelage of a veteran side possessing significant standards.

“I don't think at this point in our program we expect that out of our draft picks,” Arena said. “I think both are capable players, and it's maybe a case where Tommy has to play a little bit more in the early going. We'll see.”

L.A. will look to add more depth in Tuesday's supplemental draft. The Galaxy has five picks, but just two in the first 40, and “we're just going to look for players that can give us cover in different positions,” Arena said. “I already think I know who I'm going to pick with my first pick, if he's around.

“We probably have 25 players on our roster. We know where everything fits in and where we need help.”

Meyer, from St. Louis, was a four-year starter at Indiana who played at the 2007 FIFA U-17 World Cup, and he said he gained much after Todd Yeagley -- a former MLS midfielder and son of IU soccer coaching legend Jerry Yeagley -- took charge of the school's program two years ago, bringing his former Hoosiers/Columbus Crew teammate Brian Maisonneuve with him.

“They really pushed me and everybody on the team to get better every day,” Meyer said. “Especially this year. They definitely pushed me to take the next step and, hopefully, be ready for MLS.”

Walker, too, thought he would go sooner in the draft -- Arena didn't meet with him at the combine because the Galaxy figured they had no shot at him -- until he saw teams bunching up on players with greater athleticism.

“I'm not a super athlete compared to other guys out there, and I realized what teams were picking up: more athletic players than I was,” he said. “I was really excited to see my name next to the Galaxy. It was a bit of a shock. I was sitting with the guys [at Louisville], my coaches, watching the draft [online], and when they called my name, it just erupted in the room. That was pretty fun.”

Walker, a four-year starter for the Cardinals who grew up in suburban Cleveland, describes his game as “simple, just moving the ball, a lot of possession,” which fits with the Galaxy's plan, says he “can still improve; I've got a long way to go” and that he looks forward to having “a chance to grow and develop.”

Best of all, he says, is the weather. “I didn't expect to go anywhere where it was going to be sunny,” he said. “I expected to stay in the cold.”

Add in a chance to play with the kinds of players the Galaxy, has, the names the Galaxy has, could it be any better?

“It's going to be great as a young player stepping into a team like there,” Walker said. “They get some of the world-class players out there. It's good to [be able to play with such players] in America, not overseas. I'm a little fortunate just to get the chance to go out there and play with these guys.”