So the two rounds that make up the SuperDraft are out of the way and a lot of young players are on their way to their respective teams, with less than six weeks left before the season proper starts. Others face an anxious wait until the Supplemental draft. But how did each MLS teams get on at the draft? Here we take a look team by team and pick up on some of our regular fan reps reaction.
Picked: Yazid Atouba Emane (No. 30 overall), forward; Traded number 11 spot with Colorado for Jeff Larentowicz
It's been an eye-catching off-season for Chicago Fire and they continued a trend of trying to plug in proven MLS players with their moves today. Having already acquired Joel Lindpere from New York Red Bulls, Frank Klopas further boosted his midfield by trading Chicago's first round pick for Colorado's Jeff Larentowicz. It meant the Fire fans who'd made their way to Indianapolis had quite a wait before they could celebrate a draft pick in the 30th spot, and when it came it was for one of the international wild card players added to the Combine. Yazid Atouba Emane, from Cameroon, featured briefly in Florida, and despite a long flight did well enough in his outing to earn a spot with Chicago. He doesn't fully answer the remaining question that dogs the Fire though - where will the goals come from? To answe that one, look for more movement, possibly involving the underwhelming Flaco Fernandez, in the coming weeks.
Scott Fenwick, On the Fire, Chicago:
Historically, Chicago has found quality players in later rounds of the Superdraft. Four of its regular 2012 starters (GK Sean Johnson, F/MF Chris Rolfe, MF Logan Pause, D Gonzalo Segares) were third or fourth round picks in previous years. So after days of scouting the combine, Manager Frank Klopas and company must have come to the conclusion that, value wise (and given past precedent), the difference between the 11th and 30th picks this year was marginal - especially if a switch meant securing the services of a steady, proven MLS starter like Larentowicz, a player who wants to wear Fire red. He's certainly an upgrade, but with the likely departure of Alvaro Fernandez on loan to Qatari club Al-Rayyan, it appears Chicago has more pressing needs on the wing, and draftee Emane is likely not the answer. Moreover, defensive depth is an area of concern as well. Adding a versatile, veteran defender soon would certainly ease Fire Nation's worried mind come March. But if rumors prove true, and Mexican legend Pavel Pardo decides to hang up his boots, Chicago's decision to address the midfield and trade their first-round pick for Larentowicz will prove wise indeed.
Picked: Carlos Alvarez (No. 2 overall), midfielder
New Chivas coach Chelis wasted no time indulging the speculation that's half the sport of draft week, when he declared at the Combine that he saw only five possible immediate starters. Having been brought in to re-establish Chivas's policy of focussing on Mexican-American players, the choice narrowed almost immediately to Alvarez, who'd had a strong combine as a playmaker and of course has excellent pedigree for Chivas 3.0 (or possibly 1.1) as the son of a former Chivas Guadalajara player.
Now thoughts turn to the rest of the roster. Chelis has spoken of the million dollar payroll bill Chivas are carrying, and given that and the club's avowed change of direction, we may be seeing much-coveted goalkeeper Dan Kennedy on the move soon.
Alicia Ratterree, The Goat Parade, Chivas USA:
Chivas USA selecting midfielder Carlos Alvarez in the SuperDraft was an expected pick - head coach Chelís publicly proclaimed he wanted Alvarez prior to the draft. An attacking midfielder who scored goals and set them up in college, if Alvarez can help jumpstart Chivas' offense, it should substantially improve the team's scoring record. Although taking him at #2 may have been a bit high, Alvarez looks set to make an impact in MLS.
Picked: Deshorn Brown (6), forward; Dillon Powers (11), midfielder; Kory Kindle (25), defender
Our regular Rapids fan rep Todd Haggerty emailed in during the draft to point out the extensive turnover of players that has gone on this off-season, with Oscar Pareja seemingly being backed to continue his attempt at a fast, possession game (ironically not dissimilar to the one rivals RSL made work under Jason Kreis). Stalwarts like Casey, Cummings and Larentowicz are gone and looking at the intriguing selection of players from the SuperDraft, the first impression is mixed. Deshorn Brown is not short of self-belief and even a little bit of the attitude some coaches like to see in a striker, while Dillon Powers may not look much like an athlete, but he had an effective combine and muscled his way past other players who might look the part more. Where his lack of mobility fits in Pareja's brave new world is another matter. Kory Kindle is a little more recognizably in the Pareja mould - a very speedy left back who plugs a hole in the Rapids defensive depth chart, while also matching the style of game their coach wants to play.
Picked: Ryan Finley (9), forward; Drew Beckie (28), defender
It possibly surprised some that the Crew wold take Finley with their 9th pick - not as a slur on the player who stood second nationally in terms of college goals scored last year, but because after front-loading the team with Arrieta and Higuain, their depth deficiencies seem more obvious elsewhere. Beckie on the other hand is an ideal utility player for the Crew as things stand, capable of playing across the backline, though probably most often as a center back.
What will be most interesting at the start of the season is whether the more exciting attacking model ushered in towards the end of the year, and which left the Crew just short of the playoffs, is going to be the norm for a side that made conservative play a dour artform in the first part of 2012. Fans will be hoping the change is an ongoing one, and that Finley can maybe play his part at driving up the "goals for" tally.
Picked: Walker Zimmerman (7), defender; Ryan Hollingshead (20), midfielder
Walker Zimmerman was one of the enigmas of this year's SuperDraft. Before the Combine you'd have called him as easily top three, if not number one. He missed out on Florida through injury and rather than that enhancing his reputation, he found himself the subject of conflicting reports and opinions with no evidence to check them against. Then Andrew Farrell consolidated the number one slot, Chelis made his announcement about Alvarez and with Bekker's MVP performances, suddenly Zimmerman was pushed down the rankings. Despite that, Dallas must have been pleasantly surprised that he was still on the board at seven, though. With George John a rather uncertain quantity these days, a solid, ready to start defender is a big plus for Dallas, and it rather makes up for the uncertainty attached to going with Ryan Hollingshead with the other pick. Hollingshead missed the Combine as he was on a religious mission and hasn't actually confirmed he wants to be a soccer player. Here was the Guardian's Joe Prince-Wright on him:
A risky pick up, but plenty of teams will want his talents on board if he returns to play in MLS. He has the attacking talent to succeed at the top level, physically he is ready and many believe he can play anywhere in midfield or up front.
Picked: Taylor Kemp (17), defender
D.C. United went local with their pick - taking a University of Maryland player to join a side that is now firmly shaped by Ben Olsen. With the possible loss of Andy Najar, a defender was a priority and D.C. took one of several left backs to pop up in this year's Draft. Of that crop, it's arguable that Kemp was not the strongest on paper, and he has had trouble with injuries, but he is also among the most experienced (relatively of course) of the players available at the back, and that might be what Olsen prizes most, as he tries to ensure some stability to a side that always seems to be losing key players just when things are looking stable. Pontius and DeRo both led the team and were both lost to injury in the run-in in 2012, designated players waxed and waned, and even off the field there's been change, with new owners and now the departure of Kevin Payne and goalkeeping coach Pat Onstad to Toronto. Nobody's expecting miracles from Kemp, but a solid performer who'll fit in with a maturing side, fits the bill.
Picked: Jason Johnson (13), forward; Jimmy Nealis (37), defender
Johnson was the last of the Generation Adidas players to be picked, and there's a reason for that. He showed raw talent and explosive pace in the final third, but too intermittently to impress the watching coaches. He looked lost out wide in a 4-3-3, but even when moved into the center in the next game, there was still a sense that the game was passing him by a little. When I spoke to him on day one he was frustrated with himself and said he could play better. He struggled again on day two, but eventually conjured an eye-catching assist that may have tipped the verdict on him back into the plus column. In his style and his ups and downs he's a little reminiscent of Mac Kandji, which may suggest that Kinnear has run out of patience with the older player. Like Kandji, Johnson is something of a project, but if Kinnear can coax the best out of him, Houston might have a real prospect. In Jimmy Nealis, Houston also picked up a decent left back who perhaps fell as low as 37th because of the plethora of players in that position this year, and who will be cover for Corey Ashe.
Picked: Charlie Rugg (19), forward; Kofi Opare (24), defender; Greg Cochrane (38), defender
It's fair to say that the Galaxy did their draft day shopping early by taking the homegrown player Gyasi Zardes before he could occupy the number one slot in an open field. Zardes was widely considered the top college prospect before the Galaxy exercised the right to their former Academy player, and thereafter the draft was something of an exercise in seeing who caught the eye at the combine, without too much pressure to produce. Rugg was perhaps a surprise first pick. He's a big player though, who's adapted his game at each stage of his development and could feasibly be thrown on to hold the ball up late in a game. last year showed the Galaxy can't have enough central defenders and Opare will add to the depth there. Perhaps most intriguing is the very last pick of the draft. Greg Cochrane made some really neat overlapping runs and crosses from the left back position at the combine. Defensively, he's somewhat of an unknown, but he's got a good brain and you can see him getting thrown on to stretch a game.
Picked: Blake Smith (8), midfielder; Fernando Mogge (18) midfielder; Paulo DelPiccolo (27), midfielder; Brad Stuver (32), goalkeeper
Montreal picked Blake Smith with the 8th pick - acquiring a forward who was one of the most impressive wingers at the Combine and who should slot right in to Montreal's style of play, while giving it some of the dynamism that's perhaps lacking from their ex-Serie A players, for whom guile has to stand in for pace. After that pick though, Montreal's selections got a little unpredictable. Fernando Mogge was perhaps the surprise of the first round at number 18, while Paulo DelPiccolo made a little more sense as a third pick who may have a significant upside if he works out. Brad Stuver was the first keeper off the board, but is definitely one for the future, rather than this year's Ryan Meara. Perhaps more notable than who Montreal did pick was who they didn't pick. Ashton Bennett stayed on the board despite being a prolific goalscorer, and holding joint Canadian-Jamaican nationality. He didn't have a great Combine but you could easily have seen him going to Montreal with one of their four picks. Instead the Impact went their own slightly strange way.
New England Revolution
Picked: Andrew Farrell (1), defender; Donnie Smith (21), forward; Luke Spencer (23), forward; Luis Soffner (36), goalkeeper
So a dramatic draft for the Revs as they took their first ever number one draft pick in Andrew Farrell. He's a very strong defender who likes to play out of defense (on the opening day of the Combine he even drove into the opposition box, though in fairness his side were 4-0 up at that point and it wasn't completely irresponsible). A lot of the descriptions of him as a formidable figure rather missed out the fact that he's a humble player - ready to listen and learn, and it's possible that that's what swayed Jay Heaps and his team when the player interviews took place. Certainly to trade from pick four to first pick they must have seen something, and Farrell told me on Thursday night that the first thing his new coach told him was "stay humble". The Revs had a busy day beyond Farrell. Donnie Smith is a good add on the left side, and Luke Spencer is one of those awkward forwards no defender relishes facing. Luis Soffner was the second goalkeeper off the board, but may see action first looking at the rosters of Montreal and New England. A good days work for New England.
Christopher Camille, Midnight Riders, New England:
One main criticism of the Revs in years past is their inability to be proactive when it comes to player acquisition. This has been a lightening rod for frustrations with the longtime fans who suffer with all that goes along with supporting a club 45 minutes outside of the city in a giant empty gridiron stadium. Those fans don't care about attracting new fans, they just want to the Revs to appear as if they're giving 100% effort to improve the team. Trading for the first pick in the 2013 SuperDraft has been received as a complete success by this part of the fan base. Andrew Farrell looks the perfect fit to bolster a subpar backline. The other picks have addressed clear needs at striker, goalkeeper and the left side of midfield. You'd be hard-pressed to find a supporter who wouldn't give the Revs an A+ as a draft grade.
New York Red Bulls
Picked: Ian Christianson, (22), midfielder
The Red Bulls and drafts hardly go hand in hand in the popular imagination, largely owing to their apparent taste for trading away draft picks for dubious short term gains. Yet there are technical staff at the club who diligently do their homework on players and who have been able to find them unheralded breakout players like Connor Lade and Ryan Meara in the last year alone. Judging by interim coach Mike Petke's comments, Christianson fits the mould of a player who is selected as much for his ability to listen and learn, as he is for his box-to-box capabilities, which the Red Bulls are sorely lacking. Whether he can find a place in a midfield containing Juninho, Dax McCarty and Tim Cahill is another matter, but looking at that first choice line up, a little bit of youth and hustle will not come amiss in the draining summer months.
Picked: Dylan Tucker-Gangnes (34), defender
It's been quite a week for Portland snatching up players coveted by Seattle. Dylan Tucker-Gangnes looked to be falling nicely for Seattle at pick number 35, until Caleb Porter, having traded for pick 34, made his first MLS draft to thwart his new rivals. As scoops go, it wasn't quite of the magnitude of even Alex Morgan showing up at Portland Thorns, but it's a promising north west prospect who had a decent enough Combine at center back (though playing alongside Farrell helped), and who can only be encouraged by an endorsement from a coach who probably knows the college game better than any other at the draft.
Bigger news for Portland on the day, was the leaking revelation that the Kris Boyd experiment was coming to a somewhat merciful end, after the Scottish striker failed to set the league on fire as a designated player. He won't be cheap to pay off, so it'll be interesting to see what Portland have in mind next. Watch this space.
Picked: Don Anding (26), forward; Stephen Okai (31), midfield
Anding was one of the fastest forwards at the draft, though at times he looked a little too reliant on that speed - consistently heading to the byline in a way that experienced defenders will be happy to encourage when it's not varied with other approaches. As the Combine went on Anding mixed it up a little and obviously caught John Hackworth's eye. Hackworth only has Farfan at eft back so it was perhaps surprising that he didn't take one of the many left backs on display with his second pick, but Stephen Okai is something of a known quantity in having played for Reading United, so he may have been tracked for some time by Philadelphia, given their links to the club. Philadelphia have made some intriguing off-season changes. A lot hinges on an injury free Conor Casey and a revived Sebastien Le Toux, but Hackworth is beginning to get the side he wants rather than the one he inherited.
Real Salt Lake
Picked: John Stertzer (12), midfielder; Devon Sandoval (29), forward
Real Salt Lake are in transition, having tried to keep a creaking line up together for one more run at the CCL last year. After their disappointing exit, Espindola and Olave went to New York and there's a big gap where Will Johnson was too. But Jason Kreis knows how the machine of his team works and is astute at identifying the parts to fit it. Stertzer may grow into a decent Johnson replacement as a ball-playing midfielder, while in trading up a couple of places to secure Devon Sandoval, Kreis was pleasantly surprised to be able to secure a very able deputy for Saborio, as a player who can lead the line and hold up play smartly to bring his midfield into the game. The RSL project continues.
San Jose Earthquakes
Picked: Tommy Muller (15), defender; Dan Delgado (33), midfielder
Frank Yallop has proven consistently to have a good eye for a player's potential, so what to make of this year's draft crop? The first thing that's striking is that both players look like depth players chosen with the Earthquakes' expanded schedule in mind. With their physical style and playing in the Champions League, the Quakes will be stretched next year, so the speedy central defender Tommy Muller will be a useful pick up, and Yallop may also have sneaked a player under the radar in Dan Delgado, after the fancied midfielder missed the Combine through injury. Had he featured and played to his potential, it's very doubtful he'd have gone as low as 33.
Picked: Eriq Zavaleta (10), forward/defender; Dylan Remick (35), defender
As the draft day order began to shuffle and perhaps at the moment when Kekuta Manneh surprised us by going so high, Sigi Schmid made his move. The Sounders traded the 10th pick for Toronto after Toronto themselves had traded it with Vancouver, and having made the move Sigi Schmid picked up the versatile forward Eriq Zavaleta, who'd played as both a forward and center back during the Combine. Schmid later said he sees the player more as a defender, but Zavaleta's versatility doesn't hurt, especially in reshuffled cup sides. Missing out on Tucker-Gangnes may have been an irritation, after tracking the local player, but Schmid promptly added one of the left back stockpile in Dylan Remick and turned his thoughts back to the bigger question of whether Fredy Montero's loan becomes permanent. His goals total says no, his playoff goals total says yes. Schmid has more decisions to make that may define what his legacy with the Sounders will be.
Sam Chesneau, Gorilla FC, Seattle:
Drafting Dylan Remnick was smart and made sense, given our lack of options at LB in the playoffs when Leo Gonzalez was still injured and Marc Burch got suspended for his homophobic slur. Makes perfect sense, and knowing now that Zavaleta can also play center back, I feel like this draft did a good job of giving us the depth we needed in the back.
Sporting Kansas City
Picked: Mikey Lopez (14), midfielder
Lopez had a very strong Combine at the heart of midfield, though his play did raise one question mark about how good he'll be in the system Sporting KC like to play. Lopez had a tendency to play it safe with lateral passes rather than pushing the tempo and getting the ball forward. In certain times that steadiness might be a bonus. In Sporting's 4-3-3 perhaps not so much. But on the upside Lopez seems to have the mental strength Peter Vermes likes, and plays bigger than his small frame. He's maybe not ready to replace Roger Espinoza just yet, but give him a little time and he could come good.
The main news this week around Sporting has been off the field though - first with the expected, though in the event, unexpectedly fractious dissolution of the relationship with Livestrong, followed this morning by a large shirt sponsorship deal with local company Ivy Funds, reportedly worth $2.5m per year - a real coup for a side who look unrecognizable from the side that floundered as the Wizards. And this year's All Star game will be at what is now simply Sporting Park. Lopez has landed in a good home.
Picked: Kyle Bekker (3), midfielder; Emery Welshman (16), forward; traded number 4 pick to Vancouver Whitecaps, then number 10 pick to Seattle Sounders
Toronto FC certainly made the most of their moment in the sun with new club president and league veteran Kevin Payne making a series of eye-catching trades that verged on showboating. When the dust had settled, Toronto had picked up an undisclosed amount of allocation money, plus one of the more mature presences at the Combine in Kyle Bekker and what looks a very decent young forward in Emery Welshman. The fact that both are Canadian doesn't hurt, as Payne tries to win round locals still suspicious about his appointment of Skype coach Ryan Nelsen.
Bekker looks like a soccer player. He plays with his head up and distributes the ball well, and despite looking a little anonymous in an injury hit college season, he showed up when it counted to dominate the Combine with set pieces, goals and great off-the-ball running, to be a deserved MVP. If he appears laid back there's a little steeliness there too, which he'll need if he's to do his share of defensive work in the center of a 4-4-2 - the big question mark against him.
Duncan Fletcher, Waking the Red, Toronto:
Well, Kevin Payne certainly doesn't like to play safe does he? Could have picked Andrew Farrell and Kyle Bekker and not have heard a word of complaint, instead he trades the 1 down to 4, then down to 10, then down to 16, and ends up with Emery Welshman after picking Bekker at 3. The fact we'll never know how much the allocation received is makes it difficult to evaluate really, but I'll give it a tentative thumbs up. Two good young Canadians from the local area and a big pile of pretend cash. Productive if risky. I'd have been happier if he'd stuck at 10 and picked Eriq Zavaleta, but oh well. Payne might be crazy like a fox, or maybe just plain crazy, it's still too soon to tell.
Picked: Kekuta Manneh (4), forward; Erik Hurtado (5), forward;
After New England had stirred things up with their move to number one, Vancouver mixed the top ten up further to take picks four and five and secure two forwards in Kekuta Manneh and Erik Hurtado. The first thought looking at those picks? Speed. Manneh has Generation Adidas status, even though he's only 18, and while it was a surprise to see him go so high, he has the same type of explosive speed that makes his team amte Darren Mattocks such a handful. Add in Hurtado, another speed merchant who can also play out wide, and who had scouts scribbling in their books at the Combine, and you add another real handful who's also got a decent cross on him.
What none of this quite addresses is what this means for Kenny Miller and Barry Robson, whose addition, in retrospect derailed rather than enhanced Vancouver's run-in. Martin Rennie is adamant they haven't had time to adapt and his decision to overlook any of the midfield prospects with his high picks, suggests he's keeping faith with Robson at least. Interesting to see how his team starts.
How did your team do in the draft? What positions still need cover and who do you expect to be on their way after the latest round of drafts and trades? Please leave your comments below.