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Signed: Willis to join MLS club



Published: Wed, March 14, 2007 @ 12:00 a.m.



The 20-year-old former Mooney standout hopes to be in uniform with DC United Thursday.

By BILL SULLIVAN

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

YOUNGSTOWN -- Soccer is a game all about scoring goals.

Youngstown native Ken "Kiki" Willis just achieved an important career goal.

Tuesday Willis signed a professional contract with DC United of the Major League Soccer and he will report immediately to the team.

"I'm pretty excited," said Willis, 20. "This was definitely one of my goals.

"I'm going to test my ability against other professionals who are of equal ability or even better."

Last week Willis signed a MLS contract and DC United drafted him Monday in the first round of the waiver draft. Contract details are not disclosed by the MLS and Willis said he did not receive a signing bonus.

Today he's flying to Washington and hopes to be in uniform for Thursday's game against Chivas (Mexico) at RFK Stadium.

College

Willis, a 2005 Cardinal Mooney High School graduate, attended Elon University for two years. After twice begin named all-Southern Conference and selected freshman of the year at Elon, Willis decided to test the professional waters.

In December he went to tryout camps with DC United and the Los Angeles Galaxy.

"I liked the guys at DC United a lot," Willis said. "They seemed grounded. I hung out with the guys and they seemed real cool. I think I fit in with them."

He hopes to continue his college education in the future, but knew it was time to try the professional game.

"I knew it was time to see how I stack up," Willis said of the tough decision to forgo the balance of his amateur eligibility.

After a few more exhibition games, DC United will begin MLS league games in mid-April.

Willis will play the attacking midfield position.

High school

While at Mooney, Willis was named to the Parade All-American team and was a three-time selection to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-American team.

In 2002, as a sophomore, Willis led Mooney to the Ohio state championship, the only title by a Valley team.

He's the leading goal-scorer in Ohio history with 172 goals, nearly 20 more than anyone else.

"I'm not surprised at all," said former Cardinal Mooney soccer coach Lenny Krispinsky of the pro contract.

"Some of the coaches at the upper levels I spoke to felt Kiki had all the physical attributes.

"They felt his style of play will fit in with the MLS style of play. He's a natural and will be very successful."

Although a terrific goal scorer, Willis can do it all on the soccer field.

In 2002 Mooney won both its state tournament games by 2-1 scores but Willis didn't score any of the four goals.

"He assisted on three of the four goals," Krispinsky said. "Quality assists."

Family

While Willis has a strong network of friends and teammates, his greatest supporter is his father, Ken.

"I knew it was going to happen," Ken said of the professional contract signed by his son.

Ken joined his son at the two tryouts late last year and felt he'd end up playing with United.

"DC was going to do all they could to get him. We knew it was going to happen."

sullivan@vindy.com




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