Chris Odoi-Atsem and Alex Crognale have spent the last four years playing alongside each other at the University of Maryland. The two Terp defensive standouts are now on divergent paths.
After anchoring the Maryland defensive unit during the last four years, Odoi-Atsem and Crognale will be playing professionally for their hometown teams. On Jan. 13, Odoi-Atsem was selected in the first round of the Major League Soccer SuperDraft by D.C. United. Crognale entered the league Dec. 20, when he signed a homegrown player contract with the Columbus Crew.
Odoi-Atsem has spent his entire life in the Washington area. Now, the former soccer standout at DeMatha Catholic High School and Maryland will be making a living at nearby RFK Stadium. The Mitchellville, Md., native was the 12th overall pick and the 19th former Terp chosen in the draft's opening round since the league's first season in 1996. Odoi-Atsem will join two former Maryland players, defender Taylor Kemp and forward Patrick Mullins, on the D.C. United squad.
Odoi-Atsem's selection continued a positive trend for the Maryland men's soccer program. During the past four years, seven Terps have been chosen by Major League Soccer teams. Four of those players were first-round selections, including Mullins (2014), forward Schillo Tshuma (2014), midfielder Tsubasa Endoh (2016) and Odoi-Atsem (2017).
Odoi-Atsem and Crognale were four-year starters and shutdown defenders for Maryland teams that earned four NCAA tournament berths and posted 33 shutouts during their careers. During their time at Maryland, the Terps reached the 2013 College Cup championship game and made an Elite Eight appearance in 2015.
The 5-foot-10, 150-pound Odoi-Atsem, who totaled three goals and eight assists during his college career, also had his best offensive season in 2016. He scored one goal and six assists for a Maryland team that earned the nation's top ranking early in the season, won its third consecutive Big Ten tournament championship and was the top seed in the NCAA tournament. The Terps' season ended suddenly with a 5-4 loss to Providence in the tournament's second round Nov. 20, 2016, but head coach Sasho Cirovski's club finished with a sterling 18-1-2 record.
Following his senior season, Crognale earned first-team All-America recognition from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. The Terps' team captain was a MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist and also earned the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year award. The native of Gahanna, Ohio, was an impact player at the offensive end, contributing a career-high six goals and one assist during his final season at Maryland. The 6-foot-5, 201-pound Crognale finished his Terp career with 11 goals and three assists.
Crognale will also have some familiar company in Columbus. Zack Steffen, who was the Terps' starting goalkeeper during the 2013 and 2014 seasons, is entering his second year with the Crew.