D.C. United owns the No. 7 overall pick in the 2012 MLS Draft. We're reviewing some of the top college soccer players who might be worth Ben Olsen's consideration in the first round.
Over the past few years, playing for Sasho Cirovski's Maryland Terrapins soccer program has become more or less the surest way to end up making a living playing soccer in the United States. This is great news for D.C. United, since it takes less than half an hour to get from RFK Stadium to Ludwig Field. At one point last season, United's roster had no fewer than four recent Maryland products listed, and Cirovski has been a regular figure on CSN Washington's MLS broadcasts.
That brings us to Casey Townsend, the only big name coming out of College Park this year. The Traverse City, Michigan native finished his NCAA career with some stellar numbers. In 85 appearances, Townsend has 43 goals and 12 assists. His senior season was particularly impressive, as he managed 17 goals and 2 assists in just 21 games. That added up to being shortlisted for the Hermann Trophy and being named to the All-ACC First Team for the second straight year, which is no easy feat given the ACC's consistent strength.
Townsend has a lot of skills that will translate in MLS. He is something of a goal-poacher, but works very hard off the ball (both to get open when his team is in possession and also defensively). He is tough to mark, a good finisher, and is outstanding in the air despite not being built like a prototypical big man (5'11", 161 lbs). That's down to equal parts leaping ability - Townsend is one of those guys that just seems to hang in the air for an extra second - and timing.
Unlike Darren Mattocks, Townsend could possibly be available at No. 7. In fact, he's often the player most mock drafts see us selecting. Everyone in MLS knows we're in need of strikers, and Townsend is probably the best senior striker in the draft pool. With Generation Adidas players likely to fly off the board quickly, selecting Townsend would make a lot of sense.
If Townsend does join the ranks of Maryland players to suit up for United, look for him to push Blake Brettschneider for playing time immediately. They aren't quite the same player - Brettschneider's size gives us more of a traditional back-to-goal target man, while Townsend would push up higher and get into the box more often - but the plus would be allowing Olsen to have more options and better competition in training. If possession is more important against a given opponent, Benny could call on BlakeBrett. If, however, it looks like we're going to be in a game that features lots of chances, Townsend is probably the better option due to his superior finishing.
Bottom line: Townsend would be a good acquisition for United, and is probably among the top three or four most likely selections Thursday.