MLS WORKS: SuperDraft Prospects Nick Besler and Fatai Alashe lend a helping hand in Philadelphia

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PHILADELPHIA – Over the past four years, Notre Dame’s Nick Besler and Michigan State’s Fatai Alashe went head-to-head a number of times on the soccer field as midfielders for rival teams.

On Wednesday, a day before both are expected to be taken in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft, the two players went head-to-head again: this time at a South Philadelphia food bank.

Besler and Alashe were among a handful of potential draft picks sorting and packing food for local food pantries, shelters and emergency kitchens as part of an MLS WORKS project at Philabundance, the region’s largest hunger relief organization.

Naturally, a friendly competition ensued.

“He kind of thought he was beating me a little bit in the box-taping,” Alashe said. “But honestly, it’s pretty ridiculous because it wasn’t even close. I think I taped three boxes to every one he taped. It was really no contest.”

“It’s all fun,” Besler added with a smile.

Besler and Alashe certainly had smiles on their faces as they hustled through the warehouse to bring boxes of canned goods from the warehouse to the loading dock, where it was then shipped to local communities in need.

They were joined by fellow draft candidates Ramon Martin Del Campo (UC Davis) and Cristian Roldan (University of Washington), the Philadelphia Union’s Zach Pfeffer and Toronto FC’s Daniel Lovitz, and members of MLS WORKS and the Philadelphia Union Foundation.

“We’re pretty fortunate to be in the situations we’re in,” Besler said. “I think all of us understand where we are and I think sometimes what we don’t understand is what kind of position some of the people we’re helping out are in. They need the help and it’s great to be out there helping them.”

Besler and Alashe said they both did a lot of charity work while in college and are eager to do more of the same in the pros. Pfeffer – who’s about to enter his fifth year in MLS but is still younger than most of the draft candidates – enjoys that part of the job, too.

“Obviously being from the Philadelphia area to begin with, it’s always nice to have that feeling of giving back to everyone,” the 20-year-old Pfeffer said. “You don’t even realize at first how many people there are that don’t have enough food to eat or don’t have a nice place to sleep at night, so doing this kind of charity work is really nice and gives you a sense of fulfillment.”

Perhaps one of the best parts of the event was the future draft picks getting to know each other ahead of what figures to be one of the biggest days of their lives.

For Besler and Olashe, their on-field rivalry may very well continue from college into MLS. But for a few hours, it was a nice to forget about soccer and do some good – even if it created a new off-field rivalry.

“If we didn’t have this, we’d just be sitting at the hotel, and when you’re sitting around bored, all you’re doing is thinking about what’s going to happen tomorrow,” Alashe said. “This puts things in perspective and you start thinking about how lucky you are to be here and everything we have and the opportunities we have – especially with what’s coming up tomorrow.”

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