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Watching MLS? Army’s Zac McGraw is a reason to root for the Portland Timbers

Zac McGraw is the first West Point graduate selected in the MLS SuperDraft. He’s in Orlando with the Portland Timbers for the league’s tournament.

Zac McGraw is the first West Point graduate selected in the MLS SuperDraft.
Courtesy of Army West Point Athletic Communications / The Patriot League

Some professional sports are slowly starting to play again amid the coronavirus pandemic. Soccer is leading the way, as many leagues have restarted in across the globe. In the U.S., the NWSL was the first professional team sport to return to play in late June with its tournament in Utah.

And down in Florida, Major League Soccer has resumed play with its own tournament, unimaginatively named “The MLS Is Back Tournament.” (No, really.)

Anyways, if you’re a fan of Service Academy sports, perhaps you could root for the Portland Timbers.

Here’s why:

Former West Point men’s soccer standout Zac McGraw inked a professional deal with the Timbers near the end of June. He has yet to make an in-game appearance for the side coached by Giovanni Savarese, but is with the team in their Orlando bubble. He was among the substitutes available for their 2-1 win over the LA Galaxy on July 14.

McGraw, 23, made history back in January as he was the first former Black Knight to be selected in the MLS SuperDraft, taken by the Timbers 68th overall. He joins Navy’s Joe Greenspan and Air Force’s Tucker Bone as Service Academy athletes who have been drafted by MLS clubs.

A defender, McGraw helped Army post 21 shutouts over his 68 career appearances. He also tallied nine assists and one goal for the Cadets. He was also a two-time team captain.

At Top Drawer Soccer, Travis Clark penned a feature on McGraw and spoke with Army head coach Russell Payne, who compared the West Point graduate to Omar Gonzalez, who has 52 caps for the U.S. men’s national team.

Said Payne: “He would take new concepts that we brought to him as a center back – if we needed him to carry the ball out and break lines on the dribble, we needed him to make diagonal passes, we need to work on his left foot. He really took on every coaching point you gave him and was able to put into practice very quickly. So, you could see his level of talent was there.”

Before moving to soccer full-time, McGraw was a pretty good two-way American football player too. According to the Oregonian, he blocked eight field goals and caught eight touchdown passes at West Torrance High School.

At Army, McGraw was a four-time All-Patriot League selection, a two-time Patriot League Defender of the Year and was twice named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List, college soccer’s version of the Heisman.

If you’re watching MLS over the next few weeks, keep an out for the 6-foot-4 kid from California wearing kit No. 85.

The Timbers play again on Saturday at 8 p.m. vs. the Houston Dynamo.