The first two rounds of the MLS SuperDraft were completed on Thursday from the Philadelphia Convention Center and after looking over the picks, there is a clear winner from the 38 selections made today. That winner is Reading United AC from the fourth-division Premier Development League.
If you have not heard of Reading United, they are one of the model franchises when it comes to development in the United States. Over the last six seasons they have finished at least third in their division with three division championships and two trips to the national semi-finals. Reading also has a strategic partnership with the Philadelphia Union to help raise the profile of soccer in their region.
Their success has caught the eye of general managers, head coaches and technical directors across MLS with Reading having 19 players selected over the last five SuperDrafts. Eleven of those players were picked in the top fifteen of their respective drafts, just an unheard of number for a development club from the fourth-division.
This year, Reading United saw five of their own selected in first twenty-one picks of the 2014 draft, including two who could remain teammates for a good portion of the near future.
The excitement started at with the fourth pick when the New England Revolution snapped up midfielder/forward Steve Neumann of Georgetown University. Neumann was highly regarded by most clubs picking in the top ten due to his playmaking abilities while also being able to find the back of the net; he scored 41 goals over the course of his four seasons with the Hoyas.
Four picks later his Reading teammate Damion Lowe would hear his name called by the Seattle Sounders FC. Lowe, out of the University of Hartford, will be a good fit in the Sounders defensive scheme as they have attempted to get younger and more agile on the back line. He has a big frame at 6-foot-4, is only 20 years old and should add some physicality to the Rave Green.
The first of back-to-back picks came next at fourteenth overall with the selection of Ben Sweat out of the University of South Florida by the Columbus Crew. Newly appointed manager Gregg Berhalter went back to his defensive roots selecting the young left back who has very good attacking instincts for a defender. One scout said of Sweat that “he reminded him of Marc Burch, but might have more potential because he is physically stronger.”
After missing out on another one of their targets, the Philadelphia Union did not hesitate to select Pedro Ribeiro out of Coastal Carolina University. Taylor Twellman said on the television coverage of Ribeiro that “he is a natural attacking midfielder with the body of a center back.” Boy is he right too, the Brazilian is 6-foot-4 and 208 pounds but is versatile enough to play in just about any position on the field. Over his four seasons with the Chanticleers, Ribeiro finished with 31 goals, 26 assists and was a semi-finalist for the Hermann Trophy.
Reading fans did not have to wait long into the second round for the final selection of one of their boys as Jimmy Ockford out of the University of Louisville was selected by Seattle. Ockford, like Lowe, will be another good piece for the youth movement on defense in the Emerald City.
Reading United will start the 2014 PDL season with a new head coach as former manager Brendan Burke had his role within the Philadelphia Union organization expanded. Their new man is David Castellanos who is also the men’s and women’s coach at Division III Penn State Abington. He will be responsible for continuing all of the good strides put forward by Burke and the entire Reading organization.