Pacific soccer standout heads to professional ranks
University of the Pacific soccer player and Stockton native Erik "Danny" Centeno will play professionally for Atlanta United FC, which made him the 19th overall selection in the first round of the Major League Soccer SuperDraft on Jan. 11.
Centeno played as a first-year student-athlete at Pacific during the fall 2021 season, and now he’ll go to the MLS—the top league in the United States.
"It's something I've dreamed of since I was a little kid, so being able to accomplish it here is amazing," said Centeno. “It's a huge blessing for me and my family. Without them, I wouldn't have been able to do this."
The MLS also drafts select collegiate players to developmental Generation Adidas contracts–a joint program between the league and the shoe and sports apparel company. This year's class consisted of eight players including Centeno.
"I'm thrilled for (Danny) and his family," said Pacific Head Coach Adam Reeves. "To spend this day with them and get to see his dreams become a reality it's very special. He's going to a wonderful organization.”
Centeno helped lead the Tigers to a 9-5-2 record during the season, leading the team in total points and second in assists. He was the only freshman to start and appear in all 16 games last season and tied for most goals on the team. He was named West Coast Conference co-offensive player of the week, first-team all-conference, and freshman player of the year.
"As a little kid, I remember going to Pacific games, so to have been able to play here is special and to have been drafted from Pacific is honestly the best thing that could have happened," said Centeno. “I'm super excited and ready for this next journey."
Assistant Men's Soccer Coach Brain Lanoye said Centeno is the epitome of what loving the game is about. "He's one of the most humble and hardworking kids I've had the pleasure of working with. To see someone from our Stockton community take the next steps in reaching their dream makes me truly grateful to do what I do."
"We are not surprised by Erik’s success,” said Janet Lucas, Pacific director of athletics. "He was a great asset to our program, and we look forward to cheering him on in Georgia."
Atlanta United FC is in the Eastern Conference of the league and is the most recent winner of the U.S Open Cup.
Centeno, a communications major, is the third Pacific player selected in the Major League Soccer draft in recent years. Tristan Blackmon was drafted in 2018 and Camden Riley was selected in 2019.