PHILADELPHIA - Four years ago, the Philadelphia Union stole the show on draft day in front of their hometown fans. They did just that once again Thursday, pulling in what was easily the most impressive talent haul of the 2014 MLS Draft.
The 2010 class produced standouts Amobi Okugo and Jack McInerney, and on Thursday, the Union added a trio of picks who could all develop into quality pros. From No. 1 overall pick Andre Blake, widely regarded as the best goalkeeping prospect in a decade, to a skilled Brazilian central midfielder and underrated Michigan State centerback Kevin Cope, the Union did well to add value at a variety of positions.
So who were the biggest winners, and losers, at the 2014 MLS Draft? We won’t know for sure for a couple of years, but for now here is a look at who we see having made out the best:
DRAFT DAY WINNERS
Had the picks to make a big splash and took full advantage, pulling off a plethora of picks to not only compile some allocation money, but also secure an impressive player haul. Landed the best goalkeeper prospect in ages (in Andre Blake), the most skilled midfielder in the draft (in Pedro Ribeiro) and arguably the third-best center back in the draft in Kevin Cope. Throw in left back prospect Robbie Derschang, and the Union had the best draft of the day.
Didn’t have the luxury of an early first-round pick but still landed a steal in Schillo Tshuma, who was arguably the most perfect fit for the Timbers attack. Capable of slotting into the left forward role for Caleb Porter in place of the injured Rodney Wallace, Tshuma just might contend for Rookie of the Year honors if he finds regular playing time.
Didn’t land Andre Blake, who sat at the top of Vancouver’s wish list, but grabbing Christian Dean, Andre Lewis and Mamadou Diouf was a pretty impressive haul. Dean has some questions to answer, but there is no denying the potential, and Lewis is an exciting young midfielder who was arguably the most impressive player at the Combine.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
Came into the draft needing forwards and walked away with two accomplished players who were undervalued because of questions about their ideal positions. Jay Heaps grabbed a steal in Patrick Mullins at No. 11 overall after probably reaching a bit at No. 4 to take Steve Neumann.
Whoever the new Rapids coach winds up being (and all signs point to it eventually being Pablo Mastroeni) has to be happy with Colorado's draft haul. Marlon Hairston is a long-term project, but one several teams rated highly. Grant Van De Casteele could compete for center back minutes right away while Jared Watts gives the team some useful defensive midfield depth.
DRAFT DAY LOSERS
Trading up to take Miller seemed an odd pick for a team that didn’t have a glaring need for fullback depth. There is apparently belief that Miller can provide some depth at center back, but that seems a bit unrealistic for a player who projects as a pro right back.
NEW YORK RED BULLS
Making a reach pick in hopes of filling a need is usually reserved for bad teams, but the Supporters Shield-winning Red Bulls grabbed Chris Duvall early in the second round in a bid for depth when the reality is he probably would have lasted much longer than that. Left back prospect and college midfielder Eric Stevenson is an intriguing pick and just might salvage the Red Bulls’ draft. Giving up their first-round pick to help land Bobby Convey is going to look pretty bad if Convey flames out, and especially if the player who ultimately went with that first-round pick (Pedro Ribeiro) turns out to be something special.
This isn’t so much a knock on the team’s only pick, Tommy McNamara, who probably did go a bit early, but moreso a reminder that the Goats traded away what became the No. 2 pick in the MLS Draft for Gabriel Farfan.
Passed on some very enticing options to select a player in Ben Sweat with local ties to the Crew, having played for the team on the youth level. Sweat is a decent enough left back prospect, but seeing impressive midfielder Pedro Ribeiro go one pick after Sweat had to leave some Crew fans unhappy.
Scoring a bad draft day grade probably won’t matter much to folks in Toronto considering the week TFC just had, adding Michael Bradley and Jermain DeFoe, but the team’s picks on Thursday felt a bit short of ideal. Nick Hagglund could be a solid center back, but there were better central defenders on the board, and the Daniel Lovitz selection in the second round also came with some superior options still available. Throw in the fact Toronto’s natural first-round pick - No. 3 overall - was used in a trade that landed the team a half season of Eric Hassli and yes, TFC absolutely ends up in the loser’s section.
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