The 2011 MLS SuperDraft is in the books. The draft is the way in which teams build for the future, and in some cases plug holes for the next season. I’m going to break down some of the trends we saw in the draft and rate some of the winners and losers.
This draft put a premium on forwards and defenders. Out of the first round (18 picks), seven were defenders and six were forwards. Four midfielders and one goalkeeper made up the rest of the numbers for the first round. Comparatively, in the second round not one forward was taken, 11 midfielders and six more defenders were selected, along with one goalkeeper. Out of the 18 first round picks, four were U.S. U-20 players and two picks were from foreign countries. Out of the first four picks three were from the National Championship side Akron, who had five first rounders overall and two second round picks.
That goes to show two things about MLS. 1) There is a lack of production at the forward position and that teams place a premium in that area. 2) Teams are desperate to get solid back line play in a league without much scoring talent.
It’s hard to predict who is going to be successful, we never truly know if the talent will translate from NCAA to the MLS level. For this article, I tried to analyze the holes that teams had and the picks that they made to try and fill in those holes. Some teams seem to work the draft perfectly, while others leave you scratching your head.
Vancouver Whitecaps– Vancouver had the first and eighth pick in the first round. They selected the Mexican turned American prodigy Omar Salgado and Akron’s midfield maestro Michael Nanchoff. Clearly, Vancouver wanted to build a partnership that will generate goals for years to come. Salgado is a forward who can create his own shot, make good runs and even play in other attackers. Nanchoff is the perfect fit for a forward like that. He is very good at making supporting runs and can split defenses open with passes. The combination of these two should bear fruit quickly for an organization that is trying to hit the ground running in its first season in MLS. Having already signed U.S. international Jay Demerit to bring experience and organization to the back line, they hit an area of need in their first two picks. They also selected a defensive midfielder in the second round that can help firm up the spine of the team. I loved their picks, they decided to select some of the best young attacking talent on offer and will be an interesting team to watch develop in their first year of MLS.
DC United– Christmas came a little late for DC this year, but when they selected Perry Kitchen from Akron with the third pick they must have been over the moon. Kitchen is a midfield hard-man that loves to tackle and break up play. On top of that he can also spot a pass and is dangerous on the set piece. I rated him as the best overall talent in the draft. He will come in and provide a spine to a team that has been relatively spineless the past few years. Far too often DC would lose their shape and be caught out of position during matches, largely due to the fact that their midfield was as porous as a sponge. United had the 4th worst goals against average in the league last year at 1.57 goals allowed a game and 47 goals allowed over the season. Kitchen will change that immediately, he will make it hard for attackers to reach the edge of the box. Teams will also have to be mindful of his ability to win a ball and immediately lead a quick counter attack. Even more genius was shown by DC when selecting his team-mate from Akron Chris Korb with the 31st selection. He is a defender that will be able to form an understanding with Kitchen immediately. They have played together for a few years, so it should not take them that much time to help sort out the defensive issues that have plagued DC the past few years. These two guys cannot fix all that as wrong with the United defense over the past few years, but they will begin to bring some stability to the defense and some pride back to the fan base.
Houston Dynamo– Houston got younger in key positions that cost them points last season. They managed to get Kofi Sakodie, a defender from Akron with the seventh overall pick. They also got forward Will Bruin with the 11th overall pick. Last season they gave up 49 goals and only scored 40 goals. The top scorer for the entire season was Brian Ching with seven goals. Sakodie will make them stronger in the back, Houston was the second worst defense in the league with 1.63 goals a game allowed. Bruin was the highest scorer in the NCAA last season and could form a good partnership with Ching, at the very least he will take the pressure off of Ching and allow for more space around the box.
Honorable Mentions: Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers and Chivas USA
Philadelphia Union– A goalkeeper? Really? I don’t care how good they think he might be, you can always find a decent enough keeper somewhere. To pass on all the other talent around you is wasteful. American goalkeepers have a history of leaving to go to Europe when they get good anyway, so what is the point of taking him? They did get Michael Farfan in the second round, but they have no one to match his talent with on the team. They could have done better, they could have solidified a ragged defense or added more attacking flair. Very disappointed with the draft overall.
Colorado Rapids– The Rapids went defensive in their draft. I just did not see their defense as the problem moving forward. They are getting old and slow up front and with Omar Cummings trying to get out of MLS it is hard to understand why they did not try and get some new blood up front. They have a decent midfield, but also a few players are getting a bit long in the tooth for me. I felt like the drafting of defensive players did not match their need. In fairness to them, they might not have seen any value in those areas when they picked, but try a foreign player or something. Just not impressed.
New York Red Bulls– They got Rooney, its just not the Rooney that will sell tickets. Selecting him made me laugh, he is not his brother and no one is going to buy tickets to come and see him play. He is a League player in England, roughly the same level as MLS in my book. Unexplainable. They also drafted another striker, as if Henry and Juan Pablo Angel were not enough up front. This team needed to get better in defense and in the midfield. The service to their strikers sucks, and getting more strikers will not solve that problem. New York drafts are mind boggling over the last few years.
Dishonorable Mentions: Chicago Fire and New England Revolution
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