PHILADELPHIA – Clubs and hopeful pro prospects enter Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft prepared for the drama poised to unfold at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
All involved parties will hope to emerge from the day with some sort of tangible progress to mark. Clubs seek to bolster their rosters with one or two potential contributors and a project or two to cultivate along the way. Players want to hear their names called to learn their next destinations and vindicate their work over the past few years.
The circumstances create one of the showpiece events on the MLS calendar. In the buildup to the fracas, here are a few points worth monitoring as the day proceed.
1. Forget about trying to suss out the SuperDraft: Coaches and technical directors spent much of the past few days attempting to establish some sort of consensus order within this draft class. It never emerged. Uncertainty reigns. D.C. United – or some team willing to trade to the top of the pecking order – will dictate how the dominoes will fall when it makes its first selection.
2. D.C. United will and probably should consider dealing the top pick: United reached out to several teams over the past few days to gauge the market if it indeed decides to drop down the order. Every club proceeds though that process as a matter of due diligence, but it might make some sense for United to strongly consider a decent offer. General manager Dave Kasper cited salary budget concerns as one of the reasons why United did not pursue Maurice Edu or Marco Pappa to local reporters on Tuesday. If United isn’t high on one of the Generation adidas options at number one, then the opportunity to accumulate some assets makes some sense.
3. In the middle of the chaos, roster protections assume a greater importance …: D.C. United’s situation highlights the calculations for teams as they ponder their first-round choices. The projected dearth of immediate first-team contributors and the relative parity between the top choices increases the allure of selecting a Generation adidas player. If teams have to develop their top picks patiently, then they might as well protect their salary budget flexibility as they do it.
4. … but the established senior prospects stand on their own merits, too: A trio of seasoned college stars – Steve Birnbaum (Cal), Patrick Mullins (Maryland) and Steve Neumann (Georgetown) – all project to come off the board somewhere in the top 10. They will cost more than some of their compatriots, but their bodies of work recommend them highly. In a league where teams always struggle to find quality depth, this particular group can provide it instantly.
5. Clubs in need of a central defender might just find one: Center back stands out as perhaps the deepest segment in this class. The combination of enticing projects (Christian Dean), experienced college stars (Birnbaum, A.J. Cochran and Kyle Venter to name just three) and Generation adidas choices for the long haul (Damion Lowe) create the sort of breadth capable of satisfying any team in need of alternatives in that particular department.
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