George Malki was awakened from a dead sleep by his ringing cell phone.
Rousted from his midday nap, the former Cal Poly men’s soccer player spied the caller ID through blurred vision and realized something must be up.
Bernardo Silva, a former Mustangs assistant coach now with the women’s program was on the other end, so Malki picked up, wondering why Silva would be reaching out.
And that’s how the senior midfielder learned he was taken with the next-to-last pick in the second round of Thursday’s MLS Super Draft.
“I was fully awake in like a second, just jumping up and down and yelling in my room with my roommate,” Malki said. “All the teammates came over and we were just out in the streets yelling. This is an unreal feeling that I’m experiencing right now.”
Malki was taken with the 18th pick in the second round, 37th overall, by the Montreal Impact, a third-year franchise, while his more heralded teammate, forward Mackenzie Pridham went undrafted.
Malki becomes the highest-drafted player to finish his career with the Mustangs. Former teammate Junior Burgos was selected 44th overall by Toronto in 2011. Jacob Husted was taken 25th overall out of Washington by the San Jose Earthquakes in 2012 after transferring for his senior season.
The four-round draft will resume Tuesday with Pridham expected to be selected.
Malki’s selection was somewhat of a surprise. So much so that after watching the first round unfold after an early morning training session on campus, Malki felt comfortable enough to hit the hay.
Malki said his agent was speculating he could be taken in the third round, but that was no guarantee. Unlike Pridham, Malki was not invited to the scouting combine that directly preceded the draft.
That made his pick sort of a shock.
“It definitely was since I didn’t really get invited to the big combine in Florida,” Malki said. “I didn’t even know if I was going to get drafted.”
Malki was a four-year starter and came to Cal Poly boasting a youth career that earned him national team consideration. While he did not have the scoring statistics of Pridham, who set several program records, Malki nearly went professional in Sweden before his senior season but in the end, he decided to return to San Luis Obispo for one more season.
Malki said he was fully healthy this season after struggling with a groin strain the prior year, and he goes into his MLS career in the best shape of his career.
Malki said he will go to an initial training camp in the French-Canadian province of Quebec starting Jan. 27.
Though his father runs a French fine-dining restaurant back home in Arizona, and Malki has spent plenty of time as an employee, he doesn’t exactly speak French.
He is a first-generation American with parents from Syria and Kuwait and identifies culturally as Assyrian.
He said he hoped to make that culture proud as well as his personal trainer in Arizona, Petar Baralic, as well as Cal Poly head coach Paul Holocher.
“I wouldn’t have been able to have done this without my teammates, without my coaching staff, my family, without God especially,” Malki said. “Everything I’ve been working up to my whole life, it’s my dream. I still have to show well and do well in preseason camp.”
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