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MLS SuperDraft 2023: The Crew select Clay Holstad No. 43 overall

The midfielder joins the Black & Gold from the University of Kentucky.

Courtesy of Kentucky Men’s Soccer

The Columbus Crew had a busy day at the 2023 MLS SuperDraft, making three selections. In the first round of the draft, the Crew selected Maximilian Arfsten from the San Jose Earthquakes II with the No. 14 pick overall and Xavier Zengue from the University of Dayton with the No. 27 pick overall, the latter of which they received from the Houston Dynamo via a trade of $50,000 GAM.

With their final selection of the evening, the Crew drafted midfielder Chad Holstad in the second round of the SuperDraft as the No. 43 overall pick. The 6-foot-2 fifth-year played a massive role in the University of Kentucky’s 2022 season. The Wildcats placed first in the Sun Belt conference and made it to the third round of the NCAA Tournament before being eliminated in a 2-1 loss by eventual semi-finalists Pittsburgh. Over the course of his five seasons with the Wildcats, Holstad saw action in 85 matches, scoring five and providing seven assists while logging 4,103 minutes played.

Holstad is a native of Birmingham, Alabama, and attended Oak Mountain High School where he played for their soccer team. He most recently played club soccer for Texans SC Houston. Holstad was one of three UK players selected in the draft, with forward Eythor Bjorgolfsson heading to the Seattle Sounders with the No. 38 pick overall and defender Luis Grassow heading to Orlando City with the No. 46 pick overall.

In his freshman season with Kentucky, Holstad made 11 appearances and scored twice as he received 183 minutes on the field. The Wildcats finished with a 7-1-0 conference record, going 19-2-1 overall. Kentucky reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament that season before falling to Maryland 1-0.

As a sophomore, Holstad appeared in 20 matches, starting 12. He scored the game-winning goal in a 3-0 over Florida Atlantic, along with providing assists over the course of the season. The Wildcats finished with a 4-2-1 conference record, going 13-5-3 overall. Kentucky was eliminated in the second round of the NCAA tournament after suffering a 3-0 defeat to Indiana.

In his junior season, Holstad appeared in 15 matches, starting 10. He scored one goal and provided one assist. The assist was crucial, as it set up Marcel Meinzer’s golden goal in the 100th minute of the Wildcats’ 2-1 extra-time win over Old Dominion. They finished with a 3-3-1 conference record and went 13-5-3 overall. Kentucky was knocked out in the third round of the NCAA tournament following a 2-1 loss to Wake Forest.

As a senior, Holstad saw the field in 17 matches, but only received two starts. He logged 440 minutes that season and was on the field for 18 minutes against Florida Atlantic as Kentucky won its second Conference USA Tournament title in program history. The Wildcats reached the third round of the NCAA tournament, where they were eliminated after a 2-1 defeat to Clemson.

Holstad had his personal best season at Kentucky in 2022 as a fifth-year. He recorded four assists and scored one goal, the latter of which came along with an assist in a 4-0 win against South Florida in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Holstad started all 21 matches of his fifth-year season and logged 1681 minutes played. Kentucky finished first in the Sun Belt conference with a 5-0-3 record, achieving a 15-1-5 record overall. The Wildcats won the Sun Belt championship as they defeated James Madison 1-0 in the final, with Holstad being named the tournament MVP. Continuing its strong postseason, Kentucky made it to the third round of the NCAA tournament, though they were knocked out by eventual semifinalists Pittsburgh in a 2-1 loss.

As a central midfielder, Holstad could be competing with the likes of Darlington Nagbe, Lucas Zelerayán, and Aidan Morris for minutes. A possible destination is Crew 2, who were the 2022 champions of the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro developmental league.