January 13, 2017 – Los Angelas, California – As the American soccer landscape evolves and more MLS teams are signing homegrown players from their academy, the SuperDraft seems to be lessening in terms of impact. Despite what some perceive as the slow regression in talent in college soccer, there's still a handful of players each year that are able to make a positive impact in the MLS coming out of the draft. Most, if not all of the first round picks will make the first team roster and around half of them will play significant minutes, while a few will be key players for their respective teams.
With the USL now providing a stable second team for most MLS franchises, many of these drafted players that would otherwise fall through the cracks in the American soccer system are now able to find consistent playing time in a competitive second division. Therefore, a strong majority of the players selected in the MLS SuperDraft today will be playing somewhere in the U.S. soccer pyramid.
There were forty-four players selected in the first two rounds with the following two rounds to take place next week via conference call. We'll provide a brief analysis for each player taken in the first round.
* denotes Generation Adidas
# denotes Canada Generation Adidas
1. Minnesota United: Adu Danladi (UCLA)* – Adrian Heath drafts a potential star in former Bruins star, Abu Danladi. The Generation Adidas forward has electric place and is by far the most talented player in the draft. If the Right to Dream Academy striker can stay healthy he can form a terrific partnership with Christian Ramirez for years to come.
2. Atlanta United: Miles Robinson (Syracuse)* – Atlanta selects athletic center back Miles Robinson to help fill out their back line. The U.S. U-20 defender has the ability to be a stalwart in this league and will be able to learn from experienced Americans Michael Parkhurst and Greg Garza.
3. NYCFC:(Trade from Chicago Fire) – Jonathan Lewis (Akron)* – NYCFC trade 250k in allocation money to draft the MLS combine MVP. Lewis, another Generation Adidas signee is crafty and has a great soccer IQ, two traits, Patrick Vieira looks for in his players. Lewis, only playing a year in college may need some time to develop, but if their draft instincts are as correct as they were last year, Lewis will prove to be a good pick.
4. Portland Timbers: (Trade from Houston) – Jeremy Ebobisse (Duke/MLS) – Caleb Porter trades up and grabs U.S. U-20 forward Jeremy Ebobisse. There were talks of the former Blue Devil going number one so Portland will be grateful he drops to number 4. The pacey and technical forward will be an impact player from day one for the Timbers.
5. Columbus Crew: Lalas Abubakar (Dayton) – The Crew grab one of the most impressive players from the combine in Abubakar. The bulky center back is a beast in the air and an all around great leader. Although off the radar a few weeks ago, it's not a surprise the former Dayton defender finds his way into the top five.
6. San Jose Earthquakes: Jackson Yueill (UCLA)* – Dominic Kinnear takes a special midfielder with Yueill. The U.S. U-20 playmaker has a great soccer brain, but may need time to develop a bit physically to adapt to the league. Hopefully, the Quakes don't throw him on the bench with technical midfielder Tommy Thompson.
7. Vancouver Whitecaps: Jakob Nerwinski (Connecticut) – The Whitecaps take a bit of a surprise pick with Nerwinski, a blistering fast right back from UConn. Nerwinski was projected as a late first round, early second round selection, but Carl Robinson must've liked what he saw. Nerwinski will join a young Vancouver squad and look to compete for minutes with the likes of Cole Seiler and Christian Dean.
8. Atlanta United FC: Julian Gressel (Providence) – Tata Martino goes with a versatile senior midfielder in Gressel. The big time German combines power and technique and should earn minutes off the bench right away. The former Friar was consistent at the combine and showed his ability to play multiple positions in the attack throughout his career at Providence.
9. Columbus Crew: Nico Hansen (New Mexico) – The Crew select the senior winger from New Mexico. Hansen, a good one v. one player who's good at creating space didn't ave a spectacular combine, but his four years under Lobo head coach Jeremy Fishbein was enough to convince Columbus he was a worthy top ten pick.
10. Houston Dynamo: (Trade from Portland) – Joseph Holland (Hofstra) – Houston goes with a technical and explosive midfielder in Holland. The British playmaker played himself into the first round with a terrific combine and should succeed in Wilmer Cabrera's new system. Holland was on College Soccer News' short list of players who could improve their draft stock at the combine.
11. Chicago Fire: Daniel Johnson (Louisville) – The Fire take a shifty winger in Johnson. The former West Ham Academy product displayed his excellent vision and one v one ability at the combine all week to push his stock into the first round. It will be interesting to see how coach Veiljko Paunovic uses a player like Johnson considering he's dispatched similar players like homegrown midfielder Harry Shipp in the past.
12. DC United: Chris Odoi-Atsem (Maryland) – Ben Olsen grabs a local player who fits his style in athletic right back, Odoi-Atsem. The former Terp played primarily as a center back at College Park, but projects as a right back at the next level. Odoi-Atsem is MLS ready and was projected as a top five pick so DC United got great value here.
13. Real Salt Lake: Reagan Dunk (Denver) – RSL take one of the most consistent players in college soccer with former Denver right back Dunk. While he didn't have the best of combines, Dunk's four years playing at Denver under Bobby Muuss and for the past two seasons under Jamie Franks speaks volumes. He was a leader of a backline that only lost a total of two games during his junior and senior seasons.
14. Sporting KC: Colton Storm (North Carolina) – Sporting KC, a franchise with a history of good draft picks, takes UNC right back Colton Storm. The former Tar Heel reads the game well and likes to join the attack at the right moments. Storm will likely develop with the Swope Park Rangers, SKC's USL Affiliate, initially before taking on a greater role.
15. Colorado Rapids: Sam Hamilton (Denver) – The Rapids go with a local college player in Sam Hamilton. The midfielder with great vision and passing ability projects as a box to box player in the MLS. Hamilton will likely learn under Dillon Powers for a couple of years as he matures into a midfield role.
16. NYCFC: (Trade from Seattle Sounders): Kwame Awuah (Connecticut) – NYCFC were active with their second trade of the draft, taking Awuah, a player capable of playing right back or defensive midfielder. With new MLS salary rules, the Canadian youth national teamer won't count as an international player for NYCFC, making him a smart selection.
17. New York Red Bulls: Zeiko Lewis (Boston College) – The Red Bulls said they were going to take the best player available and with that in mind they elected Zeiko Lewis. The left footed speedster is a great one v. one attacker and has a good finishing touch. Lewis was one of the more impressive players all week at the combine and had quite the bold acceptance speech.
18. FC Dallas: Jacori Hayes (Wake Forest) – FC Dallas get the steal of the draft in Hayes. The former Deacon midfielder is reminiscent of former Akron star Darlington Nagbe and shold shine in Oscar Pareja's possession based system full of young talent.
19. Montreal Impact: Nich DePuy (UC Santa Barbara) – A solid draft choice here for Montreal as they pick a big #9 in DePuy. The former Gaucho forward has great hold up play ability and should add another dimension to Montreal's attack.
20. New England Revolution: Brian Wright (Vermont) – The Revs take an exciting true striker with Brian Wright. The Canadian forward uses his body well and has good speed for a guy his size. He adds much needed depth to the forward position for Jay Heaps' side.
21. Toronto FC: Brandon Aubrey (Notre Dame) – Toronto adds to their back line by selecting the former Fighting Irish center back. Aubrey didn't have the best combine and therefore dropped out of the top ten, but was excellent in his four seasons at South Bend under Bobby Clark. Aubrey can play well out of the back, but there are questions regarding his one v. one ability at the next level.
22. Seattle Sounders: Brian Nana-Sinkam (Stanford) – The reigning MLS Cup champs select an underrated player in Nana-Sinkam. The two-time national champ is an aggressive center back with great one v. one defending ability.
1 (23) Minnesota United: Alec Ferrell (Wake Forest) – Goalkeeper
2 (24) Colorado Rapids: Liam Callahan (Syracuse) – Defender
3 (25) Philadelphia Union: Marcus Epps (South Florida) – Midfielder
4 (26) Chicago Fire: (Trade from Toronto FC): Stefan Cleveland (Louisville) – Goalkeeper
5 (27) Chicago Fire: (Trade from Toronto FC): Guillermo Delgado (Delaware) – Forward
6 (28) San Jose Earthquakes: Lindo Mfeka (South Florida) – Midfielder
7 (29) Vancouver Whitecaps: Francis DeVries (St. Francis) – Defender
8 (30) Houston Dynamo: Jake McGuire (Tulsa) – Goalkeeper
9 (31) New England Revolution: Napo Matsoso (Kentucky) – Midfielder
10 (32) Portland Timbers: Michael Amick (UCLA) – Defender
11 (33) – Philadelphia Union:– Aaron Jones (Clemson) – Defender
12 (34) DC United: Eric Klenofsky (Monmouth) – Goalkeeper
13 (35) Real Salt Lake: Justin Schmidt (Washington) – Defender
14 (36) Houston Dynamo: Danilo Radjen (Akron) – Defender
15 (37) FC Dallas: Walker Hume (North Carolina) – Defender
16 (38) NYCFC: Jalen Brown (Xavier) – Forward
17 (39) New York Red Bulls: Ethan Kutler (Colgate) – Midfielder
18 (40) FC Dallas: Adonijah Reid (Canada GA)# – Forward
19 (41) Montreal Impact: Shamit Shome (FC Edmonton/Canada GA)# – Midfielder
20 (42) Minnesota United: Thomas de Villardi (Delaware) – Midfielder
21 (43) DC United: Jo-Vetle Reminstad (Radford) – Defender
22 (44) Seattle Sounders: Dominic Oduro (FC Nordsjaelland) – Midfielder
Ben Roth is a Contributing Writer and Analyst for College Soccer News. He was on location at both the MLS Combine which took place on January 8 through 12 in Los Angeles and the MLS Superdraft which was held on January 13 at the LA Convention Center.