2014 MLS SuperDraft First Round Analysis
2014 MLS SuperDraft First Round Analysis
On Thursday, the 2014 MLS SuperDraft commenced inside the Philadelphia Convention Center. Supporters from various MLS clubs, including the Philadelphia Union, D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls made the event feel like game day.
From the beginning of the draft, trades dominated the attention and became the main draft day storylines. Six total trades occurred between the first and second rounds. Additionally, the first-round picks taken had most mock drafts being wrong, and teams didn't care what player the media thought they should take.
Most teams made quality picks that should improve during the 2014 MLS season. Some picks could immediately impact their new squads, but they will have to prove their worth during preseason if they want to make the Starting XI on day one.
While some argue that the MLS SuperDraft provides zero quality talent, let me remind you that the likes of Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley went through this same draft. Before we know it, one this year's first-round draft picks could turn into the next Dempsey or Bradley.
The 2014 SuperDraft was far from being boring and provided entertainment to the fans there between the DJ, loud music, runway-like stage and MLS Commissioner Don Garber announcing every first-round decision. While fans were entertained, teams frantically decided what to do with their next draft picks while the media tried to predict what was going to happen.
Here's a look at the first-round selections from the SuperDraft.
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1. Andre Blake
With the first pick, the Philadelphia Union made history. They drafted Andre Blake, who became the first goalkeeper to be drafted first overall in the MLS SuperDraft
As a goalkeeper wasn't an immediate need for the Union, this surprised many. However, Blake was definitely the best draftee available, and the generation Adidas signing won't count against the Union's salary cap.
Current starting goalie Zac MacMath was visibly upset after the pick was announced, and should expect to be challenged for his job from day one.
2. Steven Birnbaum
DC United traded down from the first to second pick, and it didn't affect who they took. University of California defender Steven Birnbaum adds depth to DC's back line. After trading Ethan White earlier this week in exchange for the Union's Jeff Parke, Birnbaum can learn from a very solid veteran defender.
3. Christian Dean
With the third pick, Vancouver Whitecaps selected Birnbaum's college teammate in Christian Dean, who is a generation Adidas signing. The pick brings a quality defender who could potentially make an instant on-field impact.
4. Steve Neumann
The Revolution's pick shocked many as they expected fellow forward Patrick Mullins to go above Neumann. However, the Revolution were high on Neumann because of his knack of attacking the goal, his playmaking skills and his ability to control possession in the midfield. The Revolution might have reached for Neumann, but it ended up paying off.
5. Eric Miller
As the top five picks ended, the Montreal Impact added a generation Adidas signing in defender Eric Miller. Montreal threatened offensively last year, but their defense did not intimidate opponents.
6. Tesho Akindele
If the Union's pick of Blake wasn't shocking enough, they traded their sixth pick away. FC Dallas picked Tesho Akindele and made the media second-guess their own hearing. However, Dallas got a potential goal scoring threat in the Division II Colorado School of the Mines attacker. Of all the picks in the first round, Akindele will be the most watched to see if Dallas' gamble will pay off or if the pick was a big reach.
7. Andre Lewis
With the No. 7 pick, the Vancouver Whitecaps drafted Andre Lewis and looked to find a solid midfielder. The Jamaican youth international player appeared with the Jamaican U-17, U-20, and senior teams.
However, it seems like Vancouver did not fully do their homework. On Friday, Goal.com's Ives Galarcep reports that NASL side NY Cosmos have signed Lewis away from Vancouver. Additionally, it seems like this deal has been agreed in principle for awhile now, but there are conflicting team reports. Cosmos officials have confirmed the rumors, but Vancouver has tweeted that Lewis has signed with MLS.
If the Cosmos signing is true, Vancouver's horribly depressing offseason continues.
8. Damion Lowe
While it seemed like the Union would pick Lowe up with their (since traded) sixth pick, it was the Seattle Sounders that picked up the Hartford defender.
As a result, they become younger on defense, which is something that head coach Sigi Schmid wanted to accomplish. In the second round, the Sounders drafted Lowe's Reading teammate Jimmy Ockford. Between the chemistry and experience between the two defenders, the team's defense improved via the draft.
9. Midfielder J.J. Koval
The San Jose Earthquakes selected Koval, who is touted as a strong midfielder that fills a position of need on the team. He'll be looking to make a contribution sooner rather than later.
10. Nick Hagglund
For the second time during the first round, Philadelphia traded down, swapping with Toronto FC down to the 15th pick. With the 10th pick, Toronto selected defender Nick Hagglund.
This comes at no surprise as Toronto just acquired forward Jermaine Defoe and midfielder Michael Bradley. The Big East Defensive Player of the Year will bring an aerial threat as a 6-foot-1 defender.
11. Patrick Mullins
Just as many were still wondering why New England took Neumann over Patrick Mullins, they moved up from the No. 12 pick to the No. 11 pick. In exchange, Colorado received the No. 12 and No. 19 picks. The move up paid off as New England picked up Mullins.
Coming into the draft, no one predicted that any team would have both Neumann and Mullins. They are the top two offensive prospects in the draft, but don't write New England off as draft winners yet. Both players need to show their worth in MLS action before that can happen.
12. Marlon Hairston
The Colorado Rapids made a smart decision going with a defensive player in the first round. In the first round last year, Colorado drafted Deshorn Brown and Rookie of the Year winner Dillon Powers. However, the Rapids' defense was their Achilles' heel in 2013, and the team addressed that with Hairston.
13. Marco Franco
With depth at the CB position, the Chicago Fire addressed a need at right-back by drafting defender Marco Franco, whose MLS Combine and senior year play at UC Irvine caught the eye of the team. Franco could start in Chicago's opening weekend game.
14. Ben Sweat
This pick makes sense as the Columbus Crew have offensive star power, but nothing special on defense.
"We got an exciting player. Ben is a very dynamic player that likes to get up and down the wing,” said sporting director and head coach Gregg Berhalter on the team's website. “He has a good left foot, good crossing of the ball, good offensive skills. He was very high on our board and he represented a great value in terms of quality versus where he was being drafted. It was something we couldn’t pass up.”
15. Pedro Ribeiro
After trading down twice, the Philadelphia Union finally made their second first-round pick by selecting midfielder Pedro Ribeiro. Assistant coach Brendan Burke coached Riberio during Reading's 2012 season, which familiarized him with Riberio's play.
The pick overall fills a midfield need. Additionally, Riberio's technical abilities and creativity will be surely welcomed as the Union clearly lacked creativity last season.
16. A.J. Cochran
As GM Chris Canetti tweeted to me, generation Adidas signing A.J. Cochran is a "good prospect that did well in college. He has physical tools, and [the Dynamo] will be patient with him and see how he develops." Overall, the Dynamo found a solid defender who could play quality minutes at some point in the season.
17. Schillo Tshuma
Portland grabbed Tshuma with the No. 17 pick and added a proven collegiate player that could become a real offensive threat two to three years from now. Tshuma's potential and talent could pan out, and the forward could become the next Jack McInerney.
18. Ryan Neil
Real Salt Lake was on the clock and decided to go defensive by taking Ryan Neil. The University of California defender was named to the All-Pac 12 second team and looks to bring that experience to RSL. Neil will battle at both left-back and right-back, and can also provide attacking support on the wings.
19. Grant van de Casteele
After taking a defender with the No. 12 pick, the Colorado Rapids added more depth to their defense. Colorado's offense wasn't the issue last season, so the Rapid's selection of Grant van de Casteele comes at no surprise.