MLS teams select three Demon Deacons

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Courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics

Nico Benalcazar runs to the soccer ball.

Ian Steffensen , Staff Writer

Three Demon Deacons are bound for the MLS. Seniors Kyle Holcomb and Holland Rula along with junior Nico Benalcazar will represent Wake Forest at the next level. 

Holcomb was selected in the second round of the 2022 MLS SuperDraft by the newly established Charlotte FC. In his four seasons at Wake Forest, Holcomb was a force to be reckoned with, netting 33 goals and collecting 74 career points. The Charlotte squad will rely heavily on this attacking goal scorer in their upcoming inaugural season. 

FC Dallas took a chance on Rula in the third round of the draft. The defender was a three-year-starter for the Demon Deacons. This year, he led a defensive backline that allowed only 23 goals over a span of 19 games, in addition to six shutouts. The left-back Rula constantly went up against some of the nation’s top talent, and will look to become a valuable asset for the Texas team. 

Both Holcomb and Rula have now been added to the legendary roster of players drafted under head coach Bobby Muuss, who has sent 17 Demon Deacons to the MLS in just under eight years.

Benalcazar was the final Wake Forest addition to the MLS, who signed a homegrown contract with the reigning champions NYCFC. In the MLS, a homegrown contract allows teams to sign players through their developmental academies to the first team. 

This was the ninth homegrown contract in the Muuss era, which is the most in the country. The center back appeared in 54 matches for the Deacs, 22 of which resulted in clean sheets for the defense. He collected 11 career points from four goals and three assists. 

Benalcazar’s favorite memory of Wake Forest was during his freshman year when the Deacs faced off against UC Santa Barbara in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. 

“Spry was more packed than I have ever seen,” Benalcazar said. He noted that the team was able to find momentum for the second half because of the support of Deacon Nation. “If you looked up into the stands, you could see that most students were at the game. It was my favorite moment of my Wake Forest career,” he added.

Making the jump to MLS is no small feat, but Benalcazar believes Wake Forest has done a great job preparing him for the next step in his career. “Going to a school as good and as competitive as Wake has allowed me to succeed in a challenging environment,” Benalcazar said. 

The MLS requires a whole different set of tools. It’s an entirely different environment, but Benalcazar is confident he can make the transition. “Wake Forest definitely prepared me in the aspect of learning how to be a man, rather than just a soccer player,” Benalcazar noted. 

Learning how to play with others, and meeting new people is a skill Benalcazar will carry on even after his soccer career. Yet it’s the teammates he’s spent the last three years playing with that Benalcazar will miss most about donning the black and gold.

“You spend an entire year with them, you eat with them, sleep in the same building as them, you have practice with them, and you have classes together so you make friendships that are going to last a lifetime because you’re with them around the clock,” he added.

And while it’s always been his dream to go pro, Benalcazar misses the simpler times with his teammates where they would just go to the Pit, Benson or the ZSR Library. 

NYCFC is one of the biggest stages in the MLS, and with the added background of New York City, the stakes will be high. Despite the pressure, Benalcazar is excited to be in front of the fans and find his footing in the league. NYCFC are the reigning champions, making for a landscape that is both challenging and prestigious. 

“My main priority is working everyday and trying my best,” Benalcazar said.  “It’s a long season, and it’s important to stay consistent, healthy and to make the most of an opportunity when it comes.”

In regards to his future, Benalcazar said he still has aspirations to play in Europe, but for now, he’s focused on the MLS. “My main focus right now is to try to get as many minutes as possible here [for NYCFC], so that I can develop. And then we’ll see what happens.”

These three stars have brought continued success to the soccer program during their time at Wake Forest. While Deactown will be a little lonely next year, gathering star-level talent will ensure sustained excellence in the NCAA for years to come. Although the team will miss Holcomb, Benalcazar and Rula, Wake Forest fans will be eagerly watching as these players start this exciting chapter in their careers.