FRISCO, Texas – After taking Isaiah Parker with the third overall pick in the 2022 SuperDraft, FC Dallas selected center back Lucas Bartlett (St. John’s University, sixth overall), midfielder Tsiki Ntsabeleng (Oregon State, 28th overall), goalkeeper Alec Smir (North Carolina, 62nd overall), defender Chase Niece (Saint Louis, 66th overall) and defender Holland Rula (Wake Forest, 87th overall).
Sixth overall pick Lucas Bartlett featured 20 times for St. John’s in 2021, scoring five goals and adding three assists. He was named to the All-BIG EAST First Team and was a United Soccer Coaches Second-Team All-Region selection. Prior to St. John’s, Bartlett was team captain at Drake University for two seasons where he was named to the First-Team All-MVC. The 6-foot-4 defender also played one season at Loyola Chicago where he started 17 of 18 games.
“I think he dominates the game with and without the ball,” FC Dallas head coach Nico Estévez said. “He’s a fast center back, that’s another thing I like about him. He’s aggressive when defending forward and that’s always something I look for in center backs. He’s good in buildup play from the back and looks like a complete player.”
Raised in Overland Park, Kansas, Bartlett won the Gatorade Defensive Player of the Year while playing for St. Thomas Aquinas High School. The 24-year-old joins an FC Dallas backline that has benefitted heavily from previous SuperDrafts. Captain Matt Hedges (2012), left back Ryan Hollingshead (2013), right back Ema Twumasi (2018) and center back Nkosi Tafari (2020) are all former draft picks who were mainstays in FCD’s starting lineup last year. Dallas’ top brass hope Bartlett will continue that tradition in 2022 and beyond.
Tsiki Ntsabeleng comes to Dallas from Oregon State where he was named to the All-PAC 12 First Team and All-Far West Region First Team after registering five goals and eight assists in 2021. Before his time with The Beavers, Ntsabeleng attended Costal Carolina University where he scored nine goals over two seasons and was named the 2018 Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year. Ntsabeleng was born in Johannesburg, South Africa and was recruited by Costal Carolina assistant coach Kyle Timm after impressing with the U-20 South Africa national team.
“Once I saw my name, I was speechless. I didn’t know how to react,” Ntsabeleng said on his selection. “It’s like a dream come true. I’ve been working so hard for this, so to see it happen right in front of me, it’s amazing.”
“Ntsabeleng has qualities to play wing and attacking midfield,” Estévez said. “He’s very secure with the ball, he can dribble by opponents and I think he’s an interesting addition for the team.”
FC Dallas took goalkeeper Alec Smir in the third round from the University of North Carolina. A four-year starter, Smir conceded just 56 goals in 66 games en route to earning Second Team All-ACC honors in 2020. He was also a United Soccer Coaches All-South Region Second-Team selection his junior year after allowing just 11 goals in 18 games.
“Talking with Drew (Keeshan, FCD’s goalkeeper coach), we thought he could be a goalkeeper that can help us this year,” Estévez said of Smir. “We’re looking to add players in this position that can fit different profiles and qualities. I think he has good tools for us.”
With the 66th overall pick, FCD chose its second Saint Louis University player of the draft with defender Chase Niece. The 6-foot-2 center back played four seasons with SLU, starting 51 games and scoring six goals. He, along with fellow FCD draft pick Isaiah Parker, led Saint Louis to the NCAA quarterfinals and a 16-1-4 record. Niece was named to the A-10 All-Championship team in 2021.
“Chase was a good defender for Saint Louis,” said Estévez. “He understands the game very well, very calm with the ball and smart tactically. He’s smart and intelligent in his movements and that can help us.”
Finally, FC Dallas picked former FCD Academy defender Holland Rula out of Wake Forest. Rula featured 75 times for the Demon Deacons over four seasons, including 17 starts his senior year. The 23-year-old helped Wake Forest keep six shutouts over 2021 and the team conceded just 23 times in 19 games overall.
Estévez: “Holland is a former FC Dallas Academy player, so he’s related with our program. He has good qualities as a fullback so he can help us in that position as well.”
All six players will join FC Dallas for preseason beginning next Tuesday, Jan. 18.