2011 MLS SuperDraft winners, losers
The 2011 MLS SuperDraft is over. The picks have been made, so now it's time to separate the geniuses from the dunces. Never mind that none of the players selected has played a minute of professional soccer. Forget the fact that rating a draft a millisecond after it happened is a fool's errand. The joy that comes with playing armchair general manager is just too good to pass up.
And without question, there were some head-scratching choices made, starting with Vancouver's decision to take U.S. U-20 international forward Omar Salgado with the first pick. FIFA rules forbid players younger than 18 from playing in a country other than the one in which their parents reside, meaning Salgado, who doesn't turn 18 until September, could be sidelined for the first two-thirds of his rookie season.
But that was by no means the only curious decision that was made in Baltimore, as the breakdown of each team's draft shows:
Helped themselves a ton
The Whitecaps' selection of Salgado nearly landed them in the "Say what?" category for this draft, as they probably could have traded away the top pick for allocation money and selected Salgado later, but they still had a very good day overall. Vancouver might yet be granted a waiver so Salgado can play right away, and it grabbed slick-passing midfielder Michael Nanchoff with the eighth pick and then obtained utility man Jeb Brovsky out of Notre Dame to start the second round. With athletic defender Bilal Duckett selected in the third round, technical director Tom Soehn can be plenty satisfied with what transpired.
The Dynamo entered the draft with just one pick, yet they not only snagged a talented and athletic right back in Akron's Kofi Sarkodie, but they sent allocation money to Portland to grab the 11th slot as well, nabbing target forward Will Bruin out of Indiana. All in all, manager Dominic Kinnear looks to have extracted maximum value from a minimum number of selections without compromising the team's depth.
Coach John Spencer and general manager Gavin Wilkinson did plenty of wheeling and dealing on the day, trading away two picks and in return adding to the team's horde of allocation money, which apparently helped lure ex-Dallas forward Kenny Cooper back to MLS. But the jewel of the draft likely will be attacker Darlington Nagbe, who fell into Portland's lap when Vancouver selected Salgado first. That alone would have been a coup, but Portland also added a solid left back in Tulsa's Chris Taylor.
The Black-and-Red didn't have many picks but benefited greatly from Vancouver's selection of Salgado. This allowed Akron defender/midfielder Perry Kitchen -- who was thought to be a lock to be one of the first two players taken -- to fall to United at No. 3. Manager Ben Olsen also managed to grab Kitchen's college teammate, outside back Chris Korb, in the second round, and both picks should go a long way toward shoring up D.C.'s defense.
Coach Robert Warzycha had a lot of holes to fill and succeeded on plenty of fronts, grabbing versatile defender Rich Balchan out of Indiana as well as Michigan forward Justin Meram. The selection of Meram came at the cost of losing forward Steve Lenhart to San Jose, but with Duke midfielder Cole Grossman also coming on board, Warzycha's team ended the day stronger than it started.
New England Revolution
Time will tell whether manager Steve Nicol burnished his reputation as a draft genius, but he certainly addressed two glaring needs by obtaining Cal defender A.J. Soares as well as holding midfielder Stephen McCarthy. There are some concerns Soares isn't physical enough for MLS, but given the success Nicol had developing Michael Parkhurst, he should be able to provide the kind of tutelage needed for Soares to excel. Nicol also is hoping McCarthy will give some help to the Rev's star midfielder, Shalrie Joseph. New England also selected Monmouth attacker Ryan Kinne.
New York Red Bulls
The Red Bulls probably garnered the most attention after selecting Englishman John Rooney (brother of Manchester United forward Wayne) in the second round. New York manager Hans Backe made plenty of noise after the draft that he sees a real future for Rooney. That said, it's difficult to see how he'll get on the field with Rafa Marquez, Mehdi Ballouchy and Tony Tchani all playing in front of him. Given the departure of forward Juan Pablo Angel, a bit more might be expected of first-round pick Corey Hertzog, a forward out of Penn State who is an absolutely lethal finisher. New York also landed N.C. State defender Tyler Lassiter as well as Maryland defender/midfielder Billy Cortes.
The Sounders traded away their only first-round pick to Portland (which subsequently dealt it to Houston) for allocation money, but Seattle added plenty of depth to its side with a slew of second-round picks. These included UC-Santa Barbara left back Michael Tetteh, SMU defender Leone Cruz and underrated goalkeeper Bryan Meredith out of Monmouth. Tetteh was rated by some as being the best left back in the draft, while Cruz should provide some needed depth in the back now that Tyrone Marshall has departed for Colorado.
At first glance, it doesn't seem like TFC accomplished much with the draft, but when you consider that it obtained midfielder Nathan Sturgis for its first-round pick, things look better. The selection of Cal's Demitrius Omphroy, a defender with great athleticism and good close control, further enhances the inaugural draft for the new brain trust of player development director Paul Mariner and coach Aron Winter. TFC finished the day by selecting Ohio State's Matt Gold, Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo's Junior Burgos and MLS combine MVP Joao Plata, who despite his small size could be the steal of the draft.
The acquisitions of Akron defender Zarek Valentin with the fourth overall pick and Ecuadoran forward Victor Estupinan ought to be hailed as solid haul for the Goats. But after the draft's conclusion, it emerged that Estupinan has a knee problem that caused several teams to shy away from him. Whether this turns into a long-term issue remains to be seen, but it certainly casts a bit of a cloud over what was otherwise a good day for new manager Robin Fraser. Chivas also chose Brown midfielder Jon Okafor.
Carlos de los Cobos' outfit could hardly believe its luck when UNC defender Jalil Anibaba, the best defender at the combine, fell into its lap with the ninth pick. The selection should at least soften the blow of the loss of defenders Wilman Conde and C.J. Brown. Whether the Salvadoran was able to do the same with the selections of Maryland forward Jason Herrick and Cal midfielder/forward Davis Paul is another matter.
A scarcity of picks, combined with a series of offseason trades, meant Colorado likely would get very little out of the draft. But credit Rapids manager Gary Smith for doing well with what he had. North Carolina defender Eddie Ababio left a positive impression on many at last week's combine with his ability to play anywhere on the back line. Michigan State central defender Colin Givens also could provide valuable depth.
Sporting Kansas City
At first glance, the selection of forward C.J. Sapong seems solid enough, especially given his strength and ability with his back to the goal. But given the glut of forwards currently occupying the Kansas City roster -- a group that includes Omar Bravo, Teal Bunbury and Kei Kamara -- it's difficult to see how Sapong will see the field, making his selection puzzling. Manager Peter Vermes did take some steps toward shoring up the back line with the selection of Louisville left back J.T. Murray while also adding Ohio State midfielder Konrad Warzycha, who is the son of Columbus coach Robert Warzycha.
Los Angeles Galaxy
Manager Bruce Arena didn't have much to work with in terms of high draft picks, yet bolstered his midfield with the selections of Paolo Cardozo of Argentine club Quilmes as well as Cal's Hector Jimenez. But the biggest news of the day was the Galaxy's acquisition of forward Chad Barrett from Toronto for future considerations. With L.A. also obtaining Adam Cristman from D.C. United on Tuesday, it's clear Arena is obtaining as much forward help as possible to cope with the loss of Edson Buddle. Based on his moves so far and the absence of a contract for Juan Pablo Angel, it's clear he's not done dealing.
Given the losses at midfield and forward that FCD has sustained over the winter, the selection of Stanford defender Bobby Warshaw counted as one of the more puzzling picks of the first round. Granted, manager Schellas Hyndman had to make do with Zach Loyd and Jackson playing center back last season when injuries struck, and Warshaw can definitely help in that department. Hyndman also has scored in his recruitment of foreign players like reigning MVP David Ferreira, so it's likely he'll fill those holes through other means. Still, a curious choice that continued somewhat with the selections of Lynn University defender Scott Gordon and Louisville midfielder Charlie Campbell, who spent a lot of time at outside back during the combine.
San Jose Earthquakes
The Quakes started the day with just two picks, a number that was reduced to one when they shipped the 14th overall selection to Columbus for forward Steve Lenhart. While that deal is clearly aimed at filling the hole left by the exit of Brazilian forward Eduardo, the selection of Akron midfielder Anthony Ampaipitakwong seemed a stretch. Granted, Ampaipitakwong has showed excellent vision during his time with the Zips, but there are concerns over his diminutive frame and lack of burst over short distances.
Real Salt Lake
RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey admitted on a conference call with reporters this week that his side is short on salary cap room, so with the team's roster largely set, he did well to squeeze some allocation money out of Chivas USA for Real's first-round pick. Otherwise, it was a quiet day, with RSL using its lone selection to grab University of Portland midfielder Jarad Van Schaik in the third round.
Given the calamitous goalkeeping the Union endured last season, selecting a shot stopper at some point during the draft was not out of the realm of possibility. But to spend the fifth overall selection on Maryland keeper Zac MacMath seems a reach, especially given the team's needs in defense as well as the fact that Colombian netminder Farid Mondragon is reportedly close to signing with the team. The Union also took inconsistent North Carolina midfielder Michael Farfan but might have landed a sleeper pick with UM-Baltimore County winger Levi Houapeu.
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN.com. He is also the author of "Soccer's Most Wanted II: The Top 10 Book of More Glorious Goals, Superb Saves and Fantastic Free-Kicks." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.