MLS Draft: Blake selected first overall but defenders, trades steal the headlines

Don Garber, Andre Blake

Photo by Brad Smith/ISIPhotos.com

By DAN KARELL

With a bevy of defensive players available, the 2014 MLS SuperDraft lived up to expectations as the “Year of the Defender.”

The Philadelphia Union swapped picks with D.C. United and selected University of Connecticut goalkeeper Andre Blake with the No. 1 pick. After that, teams selected defenders with five of the next nine draft picks. In all, the first round saw 10 defenders chosen out of the 19 overall selections. University of California defenders Steve Birnbaum (No. 2 to D.C. United), Generation adidas member Christian Dean (No. 3 to Vancouver Whitecaps) and Ryan Neil (No. 18 to Real Salt Lake) all were taken in the first round.

The draft also had plenty of movement in the first round, with four draft-day trades taking place. In addition to the Union’s move at the start of the draft, another big move on Thursday saw the New England Revolution jump to No. 11 to select potential first overall pick and Hermann Trophy winner Patrick Mullins.

After the selections of Blake, Birnbaum, and Dean, the Revolution took forward Steve Neumann,  and the Montreal Impact selected former U.S. Under-20 fullback Eric Miller. FC Dallas surprised plenty when they selected former Colorado School of Mines forward Tesho Akindele with the sixth pick of the draft, and then Jamaican youth international Andre Lewis became the second Whitecaps selection on the back of a strong performance at the MLS combine.

The Seattle Sounders, having moved into the top 10 in a trade with the Chicago Fire, selected GA defender Damion Lowe with the eighth pick. The San Jose Earthquakes followed suit with local product J.J. Koval. Toronto FC rounded out the top 10 with defender Nick Hagglund.

With the Revolution’s trade to No. 11 and the selection of Mullins, the Colorado Rapids acquired the 12th and 19th selections and took GA midfielder Marlon Hairston before closing the round with Grant Van De Casteele. Fullback Marco Franco went to the Fire at No. 13 before the Columbus Crew selected Ben Sweat.

The Union, which traded up and then later traded down (with TFC), selected midfielder Pedro Ribero at No. 15 before the Houston Dynamo  drafted GA defender A.J. Cochrane at No. 16. In maybe the steal of the draft, Caleb Porter and the Portland Timbers landed GA forward Schillo Tshuma at No. 17. RSL then nabbed Neil before the Rapids rounded out the first round by picking Van De Casteele.

Chivas USA, the New York Red Bulls, the Los Angeles Galaxy, and Sporting Kansas City each had their first selections of the draft in the second round. Chivas USA led off the second round with midfielder Thomas McNamara, the Red Bulls selected defender Chris Duval (No. 22) and midfielder Eric Stevenson (No. 34), the Galaxy took a potential first round pick, defender Kyle Venter, and Sporting Kansas City finished off the second round with the selection of forward Adnan Gabeljic.

The third and fourth rounds of the draft will take place via conference call on Jan. 21.

Here’s a full recap of the first and second rounds of the 2014 MLS SuperDraft:

(A * signifies a player who signed a Generation adidas contract)

FIRST ROUND

1. Philadelphia Union – *Andre Blake, GK – UConn

2. D.C. United – Steven Birnbaum, DEF – Cal-Berkeley

3. Vancouver Whitecaps – *Christian Dean, DEF – Cal-Berkeley

4. New England Revolution – Steve Neumann FWD – Georgetown

5. Montreal Impact – *Eric Miller, DEF – Creighton

6. FC Dallas – Tesho Akindele, FWD – Colorado School of Mines

7. Vancouver Whitecaps – Andre Lewis, MID – Portmore United (Jamaica)

8. Seattle Sounders – *Damion Lowe, DEF – Hartford

9. San Jose Earthquakes – J.J. Koval, MID – Stanford

10. Toronto FC – Nick Hagglund, DEF – Xavier

11. New England Revolution – Patrick Mullins, FWD – Maryland

12. Colorado Rapids – *Marlon Hairston, MID – Louisville

13. Chicago Fire – Marco Franco, DEF – UC-Irvine

14. Columbus Crew – Ben Sweat, DEF – South Florida

15. Philadelphia Union – Pedro Ribeiro, MID – Coastal Carolina

16. Houston Dynamo – *A.J. Cochran, DEF – Wisconsin

17. Portland Timbers – *Schillo Tshuma, FWD – Maryland

18. Real Salt Lake – Ryan Neil, DEF – Cal-Berkeley

19. Colorado Rapids – Grant Van De Casteele, DEF – Notre Dame

SECOND ROUND

20. Chivas USA – Thomas McNamara, MID – Clemson

21. Seattle Sounders – Jimmy Ockford, DEF – Louisville

22. New York Red Bulls – Chris Duvall, DEF – Wake Forest

23. LA Galaxy – Kyle Venter, DEF – New Mexico

24. Toronto FC – Daniel Lovitz, MID – Elon

25. Philadelphia Union – Kevin Cope, MID – Michigan State

26. Portland Timbers – Taylor Peay, DEF – Washington

27. Philadelphia Union – Robbie Derschang, MID – Akron

28. San Jose Earthquakes – Joe Sofia, DEF – UCLA

29. D.C. United – Victor Muñoz, MID – UCLA

30. Vancouver Whitecaps – Mamadou Diouf, FWD – UConn

31. New England Revolution – Alec Sundly, MID – Cal-Berkeley

32. Houston Dynamo – Mark Sherrod, FWD – Memphis

33. Colorado Rapids – Jared Watts, MID – Wake Forest

34. New York Red Bulls – Eric Stevenson, MID – Akron

35. Colorado Rapids – John Berner, GK – SIU-Edwardsville

36. Portland Timbers – Aaron Long, MID – UC-Riverside

37. Montreal Impact – George Malki, MID – Cal Poly

38. Sporting Kansas City – Adnan Gabeljic – Saint Louis

———

What do you think of the draft results? Surprised at the amount of trades? Do you think that the Union should have traded up to take Blake? Which team scored the best draft this year?

Share your thoughts below.

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50 Responses to MLS Draft: Blake selected first overall but defenders, trades steal the headlines

  1. leeJ says:

    Can any of these defenders help the USMNT in 2018?

  2. Matt says:

    I’m amazed that Kyle Venter dropped as far as he did. LA Galaxy got great value for their pick.

  3. JayAre says:

    Whats going on in Philly?

  4. timothy says:

    So who got the best of the Colorado new England trade? New England seems to have paid a lot for Mullins. Think Colorado picked smartly with Hairston considering how awful he performed in the combine?

    • DCLee says:

      I think both teams will benefit from that trade but agree that Colorado still got the player they wanted after trading down.

  5. Human says:

    These MLS drafts are tricky. In all likelihood many of these players will just be your average MLS player and that is a stretch in itself. From years past a few have ended up being standouts like Brek Shea and Omar Gonzalez. I’m more interested in the American players drafted, it would be good if some turned out to be good USMNT prospects.

    • MLS_Soccer_Talkerf says:

      Agreed. With Homegrown signings now becoming more prevalent I think you will see less and less “studs” available as time goes on. Teams with standout players will surely be locked by the time the Draft comes around. With that being said; surely there will be diamonds in rough. The Draft gives players who were never scouted by teams or even D1 schools a chance to make it. So in a way these drafts are more interesting a few years after they occurred.

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      As of a few years ago I did some counting and a 1st rounder was likely to stick and perhaps excel, 2nd rounders were about 50/50 and only occasionally excelled, and after that they were lucky to make the team. Geoff Cameron was once a supplemental pick and them sticking was the exception not the rule, which makes his career amazing.

      One big shift in the draft would probably be that as the league expands towards 20 and beyond, it’s probably 1st round or bust. By the time you’re picking 21-40 in this era it’s going to be you getting lucky because you picked up on something 19 other teams somehow all missed.

      One other interesting subject would be whether the Carribean combine proved worthwhile. It looks like all that effort has thus far netted the first pick GK, one youth international, and then a lot of teams apparently weighing whether what they saw is worth a pick and likely an international slot. Correct me if I’m wrong but 2 picks in 2 rounds……

      • SamInMaine says:

        Andre Blake was not part of the Caribbean combine.

      • DCLee says:

        If it only nets one pick then it was worth it IMHO. I believe this combine will only get better in the future and it is worth spending time to give it a chance to produce players and not just a one and done.

  6. The Imperative Voice says:

    In theory the Dynamo’s picks address need areas at CB and F but the theme seemed to be tall and slow where I wonder if Kinnear gets the MLS trend towards faster play and slicker ballhandling. Does he realize the title winning teams had mobile forwards, middies, and backs — relied on players like DeRo — and was not the Scottish 442 hoofball stereotype he seems to want to devolve it into? More Boniek less Bruin.

    • tim says:

      No, Houston still want to play 90ies MLS soccer of big dumb and slow and just beat the sh!t out of the quality players.

      • Chris says:

        You do realize that the team that won the MLS cup committed the most fouls last season right? And the Dynamo… second to last.

        link to mlssoccer.com

        So yeah…

        (Second in corner kicks too, which means your getting attacking football just not getting enough on frame.)

      • H-town says:

        No, Houston still want to play 90ies MLS soccer of big dumb and slow the winning style and just beat the sh!t out of the quality players teams.

    • Marcelo Balboa's Mustache says:

      Kinnear has won more games with less talent than any other coach in the league in recent years. I think we can afford him the benefit of the doubt. PS- I’m not a Dynamo fan.

      • The Imperative Voice says:

        I would re-state what you’re throwing out as he drills a team in a style to the point it makes the playoffs routinely, and we do alright by our discipline, but we’ve not won since 2007 and IMO that team was a more fluid bunch of athletic attackers than what we have now (Mullan, Holden, DeRo, Dalglish, Ngwenya, et al.).

        To bring it back to the subject, we drafted a big boy back and a big boy striker, and I worry we are cutting even further against the MLS grain with this. Half our problem was our offense went way too much through Bruin and he couldn’t be found and convert enough. So we draft another big dude?

        I think Houston tends to do better when we have effective, athletic second strikers. All this does is replenish the Weaver useless lunk spot for the bench behind Bruin. Guy had 7 goals last season in college, how’s that going to help us.

        And we might as well sign a veteran CB. Drafting two college CBs and acquiring Horst and Bruner will cover depth but won’t address quality IMO.

        • islandofmind says:

          I’m pretty sure Kinnear is expecting to get something from a healthy Omar Cummings this year. If this de-emphasizes Will Bruin and maybe pushes Barnes into a Attacking Midfielder role our attack could be significantly altered.
          I was hoping Dom would draft Ribiero to play that creative role but Philly dashed that hope.

          • The Imperative Voice says:

            Barnes is really an attacking mid playing out of spot, I would like to see him pushed back as well. I think Dom botched the roster at F and CB last year, had to move Barnes up to make numbers, and that’s why he’s drafting those two spots again this year.

            Cummings does add the speed wrinkle we need but the issue remains his health. I think we’d have to be a tad nuts to assume his health and productivity. It would be repeating last year where the premise seemed to be that any minute now Cummings and Carr would come save us, and Cummings had a couple moments and Carr had a zero year.

            In Kinnear’s 442, particularly the recent deadball-heavy version, I don’t think you can de-emphasize the target striker. An argument can be made that we rode Ching to what we achieved and eroded as he did. I’ve seen games with mediocre teams like TFC recently where we got poor results when we could not find the target man. Lots of crosses but few chances. I think the way out of that cul de sac is a speedy forward who can get out on the break and provide an alternative means of accumulating goals. In the Golden Years DeRo and Holden and others could get out and run and do things without having to rely on wide play and deadballs so much.

    • H-town says:

      When Kinnear isn’t making it to the playoffs, the MLS cup, or the conference finals every frickin’ year, then I’ll listen to your opinion on his personnel choices.

      • The Imperative Voice says:

        I’m convinced the ticket buying rank and file is happy with second place as long as they make the playoffs every year. But it’s Arena and Kreis who’ve won two titles apiece since our last. People realize it’s been 7 years without serious silverware, right?

        I think he’s in touch with what will get you top 10 but not what will win the whole thing. I think if we have intent to win we need more athleticism. I think trying to grind through several rounds of playoffs playing hoofball is not going to work enough rounds to get us back to the top step.

  7. ATX_Colin says:

    Anyone hear anything about the closed door scrimmage the USMNT was to have against Sao Paulo today. I think I read on SI that it was to happen today and the results were not to be leaked by Sao Paulo?

  8. K says:

    so, I asked this in an earlier thread. Why does the MLS Draft exist? Why not just let amateur players sign with any team they want?

    • H-town says:

      Cuz this is America!! F*** yeah!!!!!

    • SamInMaine says:

      To keep parity in the league. The same reason we have every rule in MLS.

      • H-town says:

        I like my version better…

      • K says:

        the MLS draft has no affect on parity. The best players are not coming through the draft. If the goal was parity then why are their youth academies?

        • The Imperative Voice says:

          I beg to differ, most years a college kid wins Rookie of the Year, because they show up ready to play in a way an 18 year old HS academician does not. Baseball fully understands there are competing values to drafting HS versus college, why not MLS?

          The youth club standings tend to reflect traditional clubs are as good or better than academy teams. The reality is most academies are cherry picking prospects rather than really developing them, so no one is really minting their own first team. It’s still scouting guesswork.

          The x factor I see is if a team will ever spend the money to have a U-23 type team in USL/NASL to bridge the gap from academy to first team, then you’d see college get undercut by apprenticeship. The loan deals are a half step down the road. But right now so many people wash out as HGP — and so many people are just being lended to Richmond, so to speak — that college is a fair alternative.

          • K says:

            it has very little affect on parity.

            So, is that the only argument for the MLS draft? That it helps parity just a little?

            This is an obvious case where the cons outweigh the pros.

            • The Imperative Voice says:

              How’s it obvious? The guys at the top of the draft tend to be the ones who stick. Those slots nominally go to the worst teams, who can trade them if they want to risk it. So the worst teams have the best chance of drafting people who stick.

              Granted, some teams scout and draft better or worse than others, but that would be more about how a team handles its opportunity than inherently something about the draft itself.

              You want two incisive critiques of either emphasizing homegrown or opening it up? (1) MLS teams have yet to show they can develop their own players, and are arguably responsible for the erosion of US YNT high age groups as the pool professionalized and MLS displaced college and club and (2) why should we imitate leagues that have disparity……the draft may not be a perfect parity mechanism but it’s better than trending towards approaches that we know result in a few Big Clubs and then The Rest.

      • The Imperative Voice says:

        The common denominator of the draft and homegrown (and some other rules) is one team has your rights, end of intra-league bidding war right there. Part of the premise is wage supression and part is parity.

        The reverse draft order underlines part of the reasoning is parity, it is correct that HGP undermines that but this only appears so because HGP started out as a “but I trained him” exception to the draft that has grown to the point where it’s rivaling the draft. HGP is the one not about parity, but it is about similar team rights/wage supression.

        I think HGP hasn’t been as huge a political battleground as it could be in terms of fairness because no single or few teams are dominating the league through an academy they trained up. Some teams are doing better than others but we have no Ajax.

        I think HGP and the draft are increasingly at cross purposes but I think US soccer should not imitate the Big Club oligopoly leagues of Europe, so I’m quite content with drafts and caps and other attempts to level things out.

        • K says:

          well, you’re right about wage suppression. That’s why MLS has it.

          My question is whether or not its good for the league, whether its good for a players development(its clearly not). Or whether its right to force an amateur player where he must begin his pro career. No one else in the soccer world does this. And for good reason. It’s dumb.

          • The Imperative Voice says:

            I think a few high end players would make more money in an open market, the rest wouldn’t change much unless MLS adjusted salary rules as well. The cap and reserve salary rules also “locate” wages.

            In terms of development, that has nothing to do with salary expense and more to do with whether MLS can provide its academicians and U-23s a more serious bridge to the first team. I think HGP is good for players with a toehold in the first team but bad for the rest because there is no decent reserve system, and the best they can do is yoyo people to the minors now. We could really use U-23 teams and a more serious academy development effort.

    • Northzax says:

      Short version? MLS is single entity, meaning players don’t actually sign with a team, they sign with the league. With the exception of dps (and I think homegrown) the league pays salaries. Think of MLS teams as branch offices of the same company. I, for instance, work for a well known multinational corporation. I may work physically in dc, but my paychecks come from California, and if the company decides they’d rather I work in la, or Dallas, or Beijing, I don’t really have a ton of say in it, if I want to keep working there.

  9. Ulysses says:

    So, who are the Americans in this draft that can potentially help US MNT?

    • whoop-whoop says:

      The more appropriate question at this point, is which players can potentially help an MLS team.

  10. ThaDeuce says:

    Why would dc swap with Philly if they both knew who they wanted 1 and 2? Why did the order matter? I don’t understand….

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