Believe it or not, last week's three-plus hour trade bonanza was not the entire MLS SuperDraft. Despite the fact that the remaining two rounds take place via conference call, are on a different day and time, and are obviously just the Supplemental Draft in every way bar the name, they are still technically rounds three and four of the same SuperDraft that saw D.C. United select Steve Birnbaum and Victor Munoz.
For the Black-and-Red, the fact is that what happens tomorrow is not likely to make much of a difference. If it's fair to say that you can at least start to judge a draft's impact after three years, the odds of today's picks (2pm, follow along on MLSsoccer.com's Draft Tracker) sticking are slim. Of the 36 players taken in 2011's third and fourth rounds, only seven are still on MLS rosters, including United's own Joe Willis. Of the seven players, three are goalkeepers, and Willis is the only one that's even second choice. Joao Plata is the runaway success story in the group, with over 1,200 more minutes played than anyone else in his cohort. MLSsoccer has a list of several "success stories" taken in these late rounds from recent years, but only three of those players are actual starters at their respective clubs.
Nevertheless, United isn't in a position to turn down young prospects, especially in a season that will see us competing on three fronts and playing as many as eight mid-week games outside of league play. Unlike past seasons in which Dave Kasper purposefully kept a roster below the MLS maximum, United is probably going to need 29 or 30 players capable of not falling apart in professional games. Finding one this afternoon would be a nice bonus.
An obvious problem with United's roster is at left back, where our starter isn't a natural and our (only) back-up has a lot of work on his defending before he can be trusted. However, the left back pool for this draft was more or less picked clean with Ben Sweat - probably the best left back in the NCAA in each of the last two years - going at #10 and former US youth nat Robbie Derschang going in the second round.
That said, Simon Borg's "best of what's left" piece on MLSsoccer makes Travis Golden out of Campbell sound like someone worth taking a flier on. United's right back will be pretty attack-minded no matter who lines up there, so a guy like Golden - who it must be said is a conversion project, though unlike most of those he'd be moving from center back - is worth consideration if he's still available in the 4th round. Maybe I'm just desperate for a left back, but Borg makes Golden sound like a better fit for United than Taylor Kemp was in 2013.
Until Kasper ruined our hopes of pursuing Marco Pappa with the news that we couldn't fit him under our cap, I was all about adding another winger at or near the top of the roster, with the idea being to push Kyle Porter further down the roster until he becomes more consistent. That's off the table now, but adding a natural wide midfielder might still be a good idea given that several potential wide options (Davy Arnaud and LEWIS NEAL!, for example) are aging and arguably better in the middle.
Good news: There are options if this is where United decides to look for help. Top of my list is Kadeem Dacres, a former USA u18 who was consistently dangerous for the UMBC Retrievers during his collegiate career. In some ways, Dacres is like Chris Pontius: He's a right-footed player who has spent plenty of time inverted on the left side.
Given Ben Olsen's tendency to flip his wingers in most games, Dacres can probably function well enough on either flank. His main asset is flat-out speed, which would be a nice thing to have. United's wingers all tend to want to cut inside, but Dacres is probably going to be more of an old-school winger who stays wide. Width is important to any attack, and there will be times that United could use a direct speedster repeatedly trying to run at a fullback rather than cut inside him. In this draft field, Dacres is the best fit for that bill that I've seen.
Akron's Aodhan Quinn is another option, though he's not the same kind of player as Dacres. In terms of style (not ability), Quinn is kind of a cross between Nick DeLeon and Conor Doyle. He can play up top or on either wing, but in MLS he's more likely to spend his time playing like DeLeon, as a wide midfielder who drifts inside looking for passing combinations first and foremost. He saw plenty of talk as a 2nd Round pick in December before drifting off of the board in mock drafts, but that doesn't mean he suddenly got worse as a player.
In the battle for a roster spot, both Dacres and Quinn - or any winger we take pick today - would come into camp as an underdog behind 2nd round pick Victor Munoz. However, in MLS a tie goes to the domestic player, so if Dacres or Quinn could close the gap in training camp, they could sneak onto the roster ahead of the admittedly promising Munoz.
Attackers who aren't clearly a winger and aren't clearly a striker are something of an MLS tradition, and probably the best of that sort of player available today is Stefano Rijssel, who I've been talking about on Filibuster and Twitter for a couple of weeks now. Rijssel has speed and plays energetically, but his best position isn't exactly clear. In his CCL games with Trinidadian power W Connection, he has lined up on the right wing more than anywhere else, but playing as an out-and-out striker was not far behind. Meanwhile at the combine, he was mostly used as a left winger, an indication that either MLS coaches or perhaps him and his agent requested he show his wares from that side.
Either way, the 21 year old Surinamese is in my opinion the most intriguing prospect left at any position. He's got three years as a professional with a perennial CCL qualifier to go with 20 caps and 8 goals for his national team, which means he has more caps than the entire draft field put together and then multipled. United has plenty of wingers - by my count, there are as many as nine potential wide guys on the roster, with six having at least adequate MLS success - but Rijssel's ability to offer some speed up top as well is more interesting to me than, say, keeping Casey Townsend and hoping he can adapt to right midfield. The only thing that would scare me off of Rijssel would be an Andre Lewis/New York Cosmos/Vancouver Whitecaps situation, which in the murky world of soccer transfers could well be the case. If not, though, Rijssel would be my pick at #58 if he's still on the board.
Every year, MLS teams mostly ignore college attacking midfielders. Across the board, MLS coaches have shown virtually no interest in grooming a #10 in anything resembling that role. Luis Silva is a rarity in that regard, and (like most #10s coming out of the NCAA ranks) he's still being forced to adjust to a different role. Sometimes the conversion is to being a second forward, but more often it's just "let's see if this guy can adapt his skills to running the flanks," which nearly never works. There's a reason why #FreeCorbenBone is a hashtag popularized by topdrawersoccer.com's Travis Clark.
Anyway, UC-Irvine's Enrique Cardenas is that #10 who will probably be overlooked despite being really good at soccer. However, the solidly-built Cardenas has the physical toughness to get the job done in MLS, a bit like David Ferreira did until after his broken ankle. That's not to say Cardenas is as good as Ferreira, but the normal skepticism of college #10s is that they're too lightweight to hold off the Oriol Rosells of the world. Cardenas should be given a chance somewhere, because he has the skills to change a game and he has the physical ability to avoid being pushed off the ball. With Collin Martin better off honing his skills getting regular minutes with the Richmond Kickers, it wouldn't be the worst idea to grab Cardenas and see if he can be Silva's apprentice.
The two out-and-out forwards I'm interested in for United are Pete Caringi III (a local boy out of UMBC, and the son of current Retrievers coach Pete Caringi Jr) and Bradley's Wojciech Wojcik.. Caringi is a classic goal poacher who uses his smarts to anticipate where the ball will be and his sharp finishing skills to turn those chances into goals. He's not going to wow anyone with his size or speed, but soccer lore is full of goal poachers with merely adequate athleticism, and you can pair a poacher like Caringi alongside any of United's forwards and stylistically speaking have a viable pairing.
Wojcik, who holds dual US-Polish citizenship, would instantly be the biggest field player on United's roster. However, his game is a lot less of a battering ram style than his frame would indicate; if anything, one of Wojcik's main attributes is supposedly his skill in connecting passes. I found myself constantly envious of San Jose having Adam Jahn - another towering target man with an unexpectedly good touch - available to cover for their injured Bash Brothers while we had options like a non-shooting forward in Lionard Pajoy or Carlos Ruiz about three years after his Use By date had passed. Wojcik's rep is similar to Jahn's last year, and like Caringi would be someone we could pair with any of our existing forwards.
You may be noticing that there aren't many defenders mentioned in this piece. I know the draft is better at producing defenders that "make it" than attackers, but I don't see much room for a center back and don't rate most of the fullbacks out there. I'd just as soon rely on whatever NASL/USL scouting we've done to add defenders at this point. As such, I think the better idea is to see if we can find the next Plata or Bernardo Anor (a player who managed to stick in Columbus and finally became a regular starter after three years) to augment our attacking depth.
Feel like I left someone out? Let's talk about it in the comments.