My MLS mock draft got exactly one of the 22 correct. The second pick — Miles Robinson to Atlanta — was the lone successful one. Despite my disappointment at utterly failing to predict the draft (I am in good company, though), there was a lot of intrigue during the first two rounds of the SuperDraft.
Here are some of the winners and losers from the day:
Winner: Columbus Crew
One of three clubs who entered the draft owning two first round picks, the Crew arguably came out with the best haul. They selected center back Lalas Abubakar at fifth and then picked winger Niko Hansen at ninth.
Abubakar is a physical, ball-winning center back with good aerial ability and a nose for the ball. He impressed during the combine and showed that he could be a day one starter in Columbus; that is, if his technical ability tests well enough in preseason for the Crew’s possession-based style.
Hansen, an outside midfielder from the University of New Mexico, won’t start, but he will be a quality backup for Justin Meram and Ethan Finlay. With Cedrick Mabwati’s option declined, they needed a second-stringer at the position.
Loser: Quality Canadians
The 2017 SuperDraft was the first to include Generation adidas Canada players, a great step forward for Canadian soccer and the league in general. Despite this, Canadians did not have a particularly great draft.
Shamit Shome, a Canadian GA center midfielder, was projected by many as a first round selection (including yours truly) and while he did not exactly help himself at the combine, he didn’t Brandon Aubrey it or anything. Nonetheless, he ended up falling all the way to 41st overall, where Montreal finally snapped him up. The reasons for his massive fall are somewhat unclear — maybe teams were concerned about his lack of a clear position — but it may show something of a bias toward Canadian players in MLS.
Another highly-rated Canadian, Adonijah Reid, also slipped. Reid — the youngest player in the draft, at 17 — tore up League 1 Ontario and entered the draft as a late-first round long-term development project. FC Dallas took him 40th overall, one pick before Shome.
Winner: FC Dallas
FCD are the reigning Supporters’ Shield champions and don’t exactly have many immediate roster needs, but they nailed the draft anyway. First, they stole Jacori Hayes at 18 as a backup for Kellyn Acosta, and then they nabbed two late second round talents in center back Walker Hume and Reid.
Hume is actually the player I had predicted them to take in the first round — one of two teams who took the players I had them picking in the first round in the second round — and he will make a nice third center back in the mold of newly-departed Zach Loyd. In addition, talented 17-year olds like Reid are always great, especially if you can get them as late as Dallas did. Another resounding success for FCD.
Loser: Vancouver Whitecaps
The Whitecaps had a great opportunity to choose a talented right back with their seventh-overall selection, but they wasted it on a player who easily could have slipped all the way to the second round.
Their decision to take Jakob Nerwinski in the top ten surprised many, especially with Chris Odoi-Atsem on the board. If they were that sold on Nerwinski — who, in his defense, had a solid combine — they could have traded down and received something in return. They attempted to make up for it by selecting center back Francis DeVries in the second round, but it’s not enough to reclaim this draft, which they blew.
Winner: Unexpected first rounders
The benefit of all these players slipping from the first round was the unusually high amount of surprising players who became early-round selections.
First, there was Nerwinski at seven. Then the Dynamo traded down to ten and picked box-to-box mid Joe Holland. Fellow mid Sam Hamilton went 15th to Colorado, outside mid Kwame Awuah went 16th to NYCFC, and center back Brian Nina-Sinkam went 22nd to Seattle. I don’t think these are the types of players who were expected to go in the first round.
There were multiple casualties: Reid, Shome, Hume, and Justin Schmidt were taken in the second round, and the highly-rated center back Aubrey went 21st.
Welcome to the SuperDraft.
Winner: Top five trades
Two high-profile trades took place within the top five, both of which revealed a lot about four teams’ plans for 2017.
Chicago had the third pick, and seeing Abu Danladi off the board, struck a deal with NYCFC. The Light Blues sent $250,000 in General Allocation Money to the Fire and used the selection on winger Jonathan Lewis, who will likely take a starting role in their front three alongside Jack Harrison and David Villa. Chicago, meanwhile, will walk away disappointed at their inability to grab Danladi, but will have fat pockets full of spendable MLS cash.
The fourth pick was Houston’s, and they, deciding against selecting Jackson Yueill, unloaded to Portland, who jumped at the opportunity to draft star forward Jeremy Ebobisse. The Dynamo received $100,000 of GAM, the 10th pick, and an international roster slot, which will be useful in the future.
Ebobisse will enter Portland as the backup forward behind Fanendo Adi, which makes me question their motives a bit: are they getting serious offers for Adi from Europe, and decided they needed Ebobisse as a backup? We have’t heard many rumors on that front, but I don’t think Portland gave up that much for a star such as Ebobisse only to put him in a Jack McInerney-type backup role.
Nevertheless, Houston would have a good day later on, using the GAM to trade for defender AJ DeLaGarza from LA.
Loser: Dom Kinnear’s 4-4-2
The San Jose Earthquakes have a lot of offseason work to do, and that work began during Friday’s SuperDraft. They selected two midfielders who do not fit manager Dom Kinnear’s long-preserved strategies, possibly signaling the demise of their coach’s beloved 4-4-2 formation.
With the sixth pick, they saw Jackson Yueill fall right into their lap. Yueill — like Quakes teammate Tommy Thompson — is not a player who fits in a two-man midfield that needs at least one pure d-mid. Neither does second round pick Lindo Mfeka.
These are two midfielders who are creative passers — not necessarily No. 10s, but they could be — who should not be exiled to the wing like Thompson’s been over the past two years. That means a changing of the guard in San Jose.
The question then arises, what do you do with classic second forward Chris Wondolowski in a non-two-forward setup? That’s something they’re going to have to figure out.