Stephen McCarthy at the 2011 MLS Player Combine

McCarthy ready to prove himself

BALTIMORE – Standing a full six feet and four inches tall, Stephen McCarthy generally makes one first impression.

He’s big.

The towering central midfielder from the University of North Carolina was one of five players selected by the New England Revolution during Thursday’s 2011 MLS SuperDraft in Baltimore, coming off the board early in the second round (24th overall). McCarthy made 18 appearances during his senior year with the Tar Heels after transferring from Santa Clara University, leading UNC to the 2010 NCAA College Cup.

Upon meeting McCarthy for the first time, even Revs head coach Steve Nicol couldn’t avoid making reference to the Dallas native’s size.

“He’s a giant,” Nicol said with a laugh. “But other than that, he likes to try and play. He’s a big, physical, strong presence, but he wants to pass the ball, as well. If he can combine both of those things, he’ll do well.”

McCarthy, who said he was both surprised and excited when his name was announced as the 24th overall pick on Thursday, hopes to make use of his size as he adapts to the professional game with the Revolution.

“I think it’s going to take a little time to get used to the speed of the league,” said McCarthy. “It’ll definitely (take time) getting used to everything, but I would hope [I’ll develop quickly].”

The Revs have historically gravitated toward players from the Atlantic Coast Conference in past drafts, and McCarthy fits the bill after playing his senior season at North Carolina. The competitive nature of the ACC on a game-in, game-out basis has a tendency to prepare future professionals for the rigors of Major League Soccer.

McCarthy said former UNC teammate and current FC Dallas defender Zach Loyd advised him to make sure he’s fit before reporting to preseason camp, and the 22-year-old plans to do just that as he prepares to make the move to Foxborough in late January.

“It’s an amazing organization,” McCarthy said of his new club. “I can’t wait to get there.”