It seems to be the conventional wisdom that this year's draft class - kind of like last year's - is not really an exceptionally deep crop like we saw in the 2011 draft that saw Perry Kitchen go #3 and CJ Sapong go tenth overall. But the first half of the first round will still have quite a few guys that will be able to contribute to an MLS side, especially if they get the right underclassmen to sign Generation adidas deals. In this series, we've already covered the country's top seniors that will be available in the SuperDraft on January 16. Today, we start turning our attention to the GA targets with Cal junior Christian Dean.
First, the measurables: 6'3" and 198 lbs. Dude is big. He's a left-footed center back who tends to eat up anything in the air and combined with teammate and fellow potential #1 pick Steve Birnbaum to secure six clean sheets this season, including one in the third round of the NCAA tournament before his Golden Bears dropped to the eventual National Runners Up Maryland Terrapins in the quarterfinals.
It's not just his size that led Soccer by Ives to put him number one on his big board, saying that scouts are "drooling" over the Bay Area native. Top Drawer Soccer has him at the fifth-best potential GA signing this year, noting his physical presence and technical ability but also highlighting "his ability to command a back four." That last bit is the part that has me excited for this player: United have had a lot of trouble finding somebody under 30 who can play as an organizing center back. If Dean has the mental and physical ability to be that guy for D.C. United - in his very early 20s - he strikes me as very difficult to pass up, especially since he won't count against the salary cap.
Dean started all 21 of Cal's games this year and grew into one of the preferred options in dead ball situations (another area where United has been lacking in recent years). As a center back, he scored a goal and dished out four assists this year - but we all know that those numbers aren't why anybody would draft him.
After the two-stage MLS Re-Entry Draft this week and last, United currently have five natural center backs on the roster, so burning the top pick on another CB might not seem prudent. This is where Dean's athleticism and left-footedness come into play: he can also play on the left side at fullback, which is probably the thinnest spot on United's roster. In any event, the Black-and-Red's philosophy in the draft has always been to draft the best player available, regardless of need. If Ben Olsen and Dave Kasper ID Dean as the best player in the draft, don't doubt that they'll take him.
But is he that guy? I think he might be. (And Matt Doyle seems to think he is.) Let us know your take in the comments.
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