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2021 MLS SuperDraft: D.C. United select Clemson striker Kimarni Smith, Wake Forest defender Mike DeShields

Everything you need to know as United potentially builds up their 2021 roster

©WFU/ Ken Bennett / Courtesy of Major League Soccer

The 2021 MLS SuperDraft normally marks the unofficial “start” of a given Major League Soccer season. However, with the league and its players currently in a disagreement over Collective Bargaining Agreement terms, we’re in a bit of an odd spot on the calendar. No one knows when the preseason starts, or when the season starts. On top of that, the NCAA season was disrupted by Covid-19 last year, with most teams still having a spring season to come (which will in turn impact when many players turn up).

For D.C. United, amid all this confusion, there’s a mercifully simple job: use their two picks to get better. Last season’s struggles have handed the Black-and-Red — who, with new head coach Hernán Losada only a couple days into his new gig, will have GM Dave Kasper and Technical Director Stewart Mairs running the show today — a very early pick, which means there’s a distinct chance we’re going to see at least one draft pick get minutes at Audi Field this year.

Scroll down for the basic info you need to watch. Our most recent updates will live up here!

5:13pm: Chicago took Mitch Guitar, so if you were hoping for a truly great name to end up here, well...tell the team to trade for him. We’re now in the back half of the third round, seems like half the teams left are passing, so that’s probably it for the day for the Black-and-Red. Kimarni Smith, Michael DeShields, and Logan Panchot in, $125k in GAM spread over two years out. Busier than I expected, but all in all this looks like a solid haul. We won’t really know how this draft went until, oh, 2023 or 2024, but as of now I think it’s one I feel comfortable with.

Thanks for following along! We’ll have a draft day wrap-up post coming up later this evening, and tomorrow the media gets to speak with Hernán Losada for the first time.

5:06pm: As is tradition, we are rolling through picks as the draft goes on. Per the draft tracker, we’re about to start the 3rd round...actually even as I type, the 3rd round has actually begun. Really doubt DCU moves in here, but there are teams that I could see having no interest in making a pick. Montreal has 2two picks, Dallas has three.

Yes, this is mostly just me keeping myself on my toes. We are probably done for the day, but remote drafts mean I don’t have DCU comms wandering over to tell me they’re heading home before the draft is over (as was the case in Philly a couple of years ago).

4:58pm: We have our first team to pass on the day, with Colorado declining to make a selection at #42 (the 15th pick of the second round). No current expectation for United to get back into the draft, but you never know.

4:46pm: After a lengthy delay for no apparent reason, the 2nd round picks are starting to show up. Former DCU academy defender Avionne Flanagan was taken by Cincinnati at #29, and now we have United’s pick: Logan Panchot, a midfielder/defender from Stanford who captained the US u17s and played for the u19s as well. Panchot was a starter in 2017 as the Cardinal won the national championship, and figures to be a right back as a pro.

4:27pm: More clarification on the DeShields situation: if DCU doesn’t sign him to an MLS deal, his contract with Revs 2 remains valid. As such, the United org must either offer him a deal with D.C. United, or he would go to Revs 2 and play USL League One.

4:14pm: United has confirmed to B&RU that once DeShields was declared draft eligible, there were no issues with his MLS rights being held by New England or anyone else. So, if they sign him to an MLS deal, there’s no compensation owed to anyone. We followed up by asking about the USL permutations, but obviously the move to trade up is a strong indicator that United isn’t looking at him as a Loudoun prospect.

3:54pm: The draft is rolling on, with the 20th pick being made just as I started typing this up. United has not traded back into the first round (yet), and if you want to catch up on the other picks, here’s the league’s draft tracker.

One thing we’ve been working on: at the end of November, DeShields signed a USL League One deal with New England Revolution 2. We’ve reached out to United over the rather convoluted question over whether United, or Loudoun, would owe the Revs, or Revs 2, anything if DeShields signs a USL deal. United is investigating it further, but as of now it sounds like United would not owe the Revs any MLS or USL assets to offer DeShields a contract.

3:07pm: Hunting down the highlight reels to help y’all take stock on the new DCU players. Here’s one for Michael DeShields:

2:57pm: Bartlow went at #6 to Houston, and the final GA (UVA defender/midfielder Bret Halsey) was taken 7th by Real Salt Lake. After that, two strikers came off the board: Georgetown target man Derek Dodson went to Orlando, and then Akron forward David Egbo was picked by Vancouver.

We’re about to finish up the first ten picks, with Miami on the clock.

2:43pm: After the timeout, United opted for another surprise, selecting Baltimore native Mike DeShields out of Wake Forest. We figured United would take a center back, but there wasn’t a ton of talk about DeShields coming into the draft. However, Wake is known for playing a progressive style of soccer, which would set DeShields up to potentially play the style that Hernán Losada wants to play.

Unless they make more deals, United is off the clock until the 32nd overall pick (a.k.a. early 2nd round).

2:37pm: OK, stick with me here: United selects Clemson striker Kimarni Smith, a 6’1” Englishman who scored a combined 21 goals in his last two NCAA seasons. Surprise!

And then, further surprise! United made a big ol’ draft day trade:

And then on top of all of that, United took a timeout after gaining the #5 pick.

2:25pm: Colorado picks Mayaka. D.C. United is on the clock!

2:22pm: Cincy selects Calvin Harris, one of the players we had down as a possibility for DCU. My guess? Colorado could go for Mayaka with the next pick, and that leaves Ethan Bartlow and Bret Halsey on the board for the Black-and-Red.

2:15pm: We already have a surprise! Austin selected Virginia Tech midfielder Daniel Pereira rather than expected #1 Philip Mayaka. Pereira’s a Generation Adidas player that at least one mock draft said would go to United, though as I say at the bottom of this post, I think they were looking for the non-central midfield GA options.

2:10pm: We’re through the preamble, Don Garber has given some traditional pre-draft remarks from home, and we’ve already seen the Rapids trade up to #3, and Orlando moving into the top 10 as well. Here’s what’s up before United is on the clock:

  1. Austin FC
  2. FC Cincinnati
  3. Colorado Rapids

For reference, the Rapids sent $200,000 in GAM and the 6th overall pick (plus some future considerations based on performance benchmarks) to move up three spots, so if you’re thinking of proposing that United just trade out of the draft...well, they should be able to get a decent haul.

Austin FC is on the clock, so we’re officially underway!

When: 2:00pm Eastern

Where: This is being held remotely, so I guess partially at Audi Field, partially at league HQ, and partially at players’ homes.

How can I watch?: Lots of options here., the MLS Twitter account, their Youtube page, the MLS app, Pluto TV’s MLS channel, and for you masochists out there, it’s on the league’s Facebook page too.

When does United pick?: Good news: we’re up early this time! United selects fourth overall, and then go back on the clock with the 31st pick (a.k.a. the fourth pick of the second round). United held the fourth pick in all three rounds, but traded their third rounder to Columbus for Jon Kempin a couple of weeks ago.

What can we expect?: Picking fourth, United’s best choice is probably to look to the Generation Adidas list, as those players won’t count against the salary cap. With Philip Mayaka and Daniel Pereira both playing central midfield roles where United is very deep already, that leaves three realistic choices to monitor.

Washington Huskies center back Ethan Bartlow is the most logical choice, as he could well be that rare combination of best player available and also plays a role where United is painfully thin. Wake Forest attacker Calvin Harris is also in the BPA/Need category, though Harris may project more as a winger (where United is very deep) than a forward (where there’s definitely an opening or two).

Finally, because the DMV is a college soccer powerhouse, there is of course a local on the radar: Virginia midfielder/defender Bret Halsey appears to be set to become a full-time right back at the MLS level, and United has one true right back (and even that comes with an asterisk until Chris Odoi-Atsem and the club agree to a new contract).

As for pick #31...who knows? United generally does well in terms of scouting NCAA soccer, so the chances are we’re talking about a regular for Ryan Martin at Loudoun this season. If you required me to guess, I’d say a defender.

This post will update throughout the draft, so stick around!