The 2017 MLS SuperDraft came and went last week, and yet we still have half of the remaining picks to go. While cutting the draft in half was wise - anyone that has attended probably knows the “joy” and “euphoria” that sets in sometime during the third hour - we’re still left with an odd situation. The back half of the draft takes place this afternoon at 2:00pm, via conference call. Fans can’t follow along in real time. I don’t get it either.
In any case, D.C. United has one more pick, midway through the 4th round. It’s the 78th overall pick, and there’s a significant chance United has already lined up several college players as trialists, which would probably mean passing on their pick (they did so with pick #74 last year, which also meant passing on #79). Even if the Black-and-Red do make a pick, the player would be a real longshot. Of last year’s 4th round picks, only one made an MLS roster. That player (Cole Missimo) was waived at the end of the 2016 season by the Philadelphia Union.
However, let’s pretend United is definitely going to make a selection. We’ve put together some names to look out for:
It wasn’t long ago that I picked Penn State center back Robert Sagel in SB Nation’s mock draft. I’m of the opinion that United is looking for a potential long-term successor to Bobby Boswell, and if they’re going to take anyone, I think center backs are the way to go. Sagel has the physical size for the job, and finished 8th in the MLS Combine’s agility test.
Kentucky center back Jordan Wilson is another option here. Wilson hails from Scotland, but possesses a US green card. He played for the Scottish under-18 national team before coming to the US, and was named to the Conference USA all-conference team in each of the last three years. Cal center back Trevor Haberkorn - a 6’3” US under-20 who has multiple pro baseball players in his family tree - is also a pretty solid option provided he lasts long enough.
Dakota Barnathan, a Virginia Commonwealth defensive midfielder that can also play multiple defensive positions, was name-checked by Top Drawer Soccer’s Travis Clark on our last episode of Filibuster. It’s always handy to be able to play multiple roles when trying to play your way into a contract during the preseason, and United has surely seen VCU play quite a few games thanks to the relatively short drive.
Contrast that with wide man Souheib Dhaflaoui, who was added to the combine just before the event got going. Dhaflaoui, 20, is a Tunisian-Danish citizen who came up through FC Nordsjaelland’s academy. Per Transfermarkt, he made 9 appearances on loan with FC Helsingoer in the Danish 2nd division last season. This late in the draft, a player with actual professional appearance at a position United could use a bit of help at seems like an interesting choice.
Temple attacker Jorge Gomez Sanchez was surprisingly not selected in the first two rounds. The Spanish winger/forward would count as an international, and came through La Liga club Osasuna’s academy. In 36 games with the Owls since transferring from Universidad Europea, Gomez Sanchez produced 27 goals and 8 assists. He was more of a striker in the college ranks, but seems likely to end up as a winger if he’s going to make it in MLS.
Earlier I mentioned our mock draft, and in that link there’s plenty of stuff on Penn State forward Connor Maloney. Like Gomez Sanchez, and many other players here, he was a forward in college that probably has to transition to a wide role. He’s a Ben Olsen sort of player, in any case: gritty, hard-working, and with a tendency to produce goals out of nowhere.
Cal’s Christian Thierjung was mentioned as a first round pick in multiple mock drafts, and on that previously linked episode of Filibuster, Travis Clark compared him to Chris Pontius. Another winger/forward, Thierjung needed a year to break into the Bears’ lineup, but once he got there he was productive. In 53 games in his final three college seasons, he scored 25 goals. Most likely, he’ll go in the third round, but if he’s still out there when United is up, don’t be surprised if he gets picked up.
Other, similar options include Eddie Sanchez (Portland Pilots), Chris Nanco (Syracuse Orange), and Russell Cicerone (SUNY-Buffalo Bulls). Nanco is known for his speed, while Cicerone is considered to be a problem-solver with good soccer IQ. Sanchez evolved over time into a more creative force, but still managed to make SportsCenter as a goalscorer.
David Goldsmith ended up going in the first round of our mock, and the Butler striker is a former Wales under-19 national team player known for a powerful shot. At 5’9” and 155 lbs, he’s more goal-poacher than target man, but he’s a good enough poacher that he made the NSCAA’s All-America second team. Even incorporating a rough sophomore year (6 goals in 18 games), he managed an impressive 41 goals in 70 college appearances.
Finally, North Carolina target man Tucker Hume might seem like a familiar name. That might be because his twin brother Walker (a center back) was taken late in the 2nd round by FC Dallas. Hume was voted team MVP by his Tarheels teammates in 2015, when - despite only starting four games out of twenty - he managed a team-leading 11 goals. Hume started more regularly this past year, and put together a solid 7 goal/4 assist season. At 6’5” and 204 lbs, Hume certainly has the build to provide the back-to-goal play United requires of their lone striker.