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2014 MLS SuperDraft Analysis - By Ben Roth

The MLS Superdraft is always full of surprises, but this year especially threw some unexpected curveballs.  Fourteen of the total nineteen first round picks were traded at some point causing even more chaos to the already hectic day.  Nobody could have seen what was to come such as Blake being picked first (1st ever GK at #1), or a division II player Tesho Akindele, being picked 6th overall or even the two time Hermann Trophy winner, Patrick Mullins dropping down to the 11th overall pick.  It was a crazy day in Philadelphia, one that will more likely than not produce a couple of the league’s future stars.  Here is your 2014 MLS Superdraft first two rounds with analysis of each pick.

FIRST ROUND  

  1. Philadelphia Union: Andre Blake (UCONN): The consensus number one goalkeeper, Blake, is a bit of a surprise at #1, but you can’t blame the Union.  The athletic Jamican keeper is a once in a generation prospect and a future star of the league.  Coach Hackworth stated earlier in the week that he loved Blake so this isn’t too much of a revelation, but not many thought he would trade up for the 6’4” net-minder.  An incredible shot stopper, Blake, will compete with MacMath for the starting spot from day one.
  1. DC United: Steve Birnbaum (California): The most MLS ready player in the draft, Birnbaum is a strong pick for the Red and Black.  The University of California center back was the MVP of the combine and showed his class all year.  Apart from his injuries, the DC United fans have nothing to worry about, as Birnbaum is tough, great in the air, and should compete for minutes from the start.
  1. Vancouver Whitecaps: Christian Dean (California): Birnbaum’s partner in crime, Dean, is an athletic prospect with a ton of potential.  A left footed center back with a good touch, Dean, may be too raw to start immediately, but he has the highest potential in the draft.  The 6’4” defender could play left back, but is more of a long-term center back prospect.  Playing behind Demerit should be good for Dean’s development into a possible future star of the league.
  1. New England Revolution: Steve Neumann (Georgetown): Another surprise pick up, the Revs take a playmaker in Neumann.  The Hoyas captain is capable of playing as a second striker or on the wings.  Neumann, an extremely technical player was unbelievable in college, and Coach Heaps will hope his versatile play translates to the pros.  Many thought Mullins would be picked here and nobody expected Neumann to be a top 5 pick.  The two time 2nd team All American could compete for minutes immediately.
  1. Montreal Impact: Eric Miller (Creighton): The impact traded up to pick the best outside back in the draft, Miller.  Although Miller has also played center back and defensive midfield with the Blue Jays, he projects as a right back in the pros.  This is a smart pickup for a team that knew Miller wouldn’t have dropped to their original #10 spot.  The hard working and versatile US youth national teamer will look to compete for playing time with Hassoun Camara.
  1. FC Dallas: Tesho Akindele (Colorado School of Mines): Yes you read that correctly, FC Dallas took combine standout from the ‘Colorado School of Mines’, a Division II team.  This is a bit of a mind-boggling pick as FC Dallas could’ve most likely gotten Akindele with their 10th pick.  With that said, Akindele performed remarkably well in Fort Lauderdale earning himself seven interviews with different MLS teams, an unheard of number.  The pacey forward has a good touch and change of direction, something Pareja is fond of.
  1. Vancouver Whitecaps: Andre Lewis (Jamaica): Another standout, Lewis, is a tricky center midfielder who impressed scouts at the combine.  The Jamaican youth international has good feet and was hard to knock off the ball all week. Lewis, a dynamic player has huge upside and could be a great future player for the Caps’.  If Lewis can play like he did throughout the combine, he will be a great addition to the Canadian side.
  1. Seattle Sounders: Damion Lowe (Hartford): The last member to sign a Generation Adidas contract, Lowe is a physical beast at center back and has a high ceiling.  Although the Jamaican may not be ready to play immediately, if molded correctly by Coach Sigi Schmid, he could be a star.  Lowe’s father Onandi Lowe was a former Jamaican international, so the Sounders hope the phrase ‘like father like son’ holds true.
  1. San Jose Earthquakes: JJ Koval (Stanford): Koval was the assumed pick to go here and will be a great choice for the Quakes.  The Cardinal captain has a good work rate, is great in the air and finds his time to go forward.  Rated as the best defensive midfielder on the board, Koval will provide service as a backup for Sam Cronin, and will fight for playing time.
  1. Toronto FC: Nick Hagglund (Xavier): The Reds look to be set in their attack so Hagglund, a strong center back is a reasonable choice.  Many had others rated above Hagglund, but the 6’1” defender performed well at the combine, something which saw his stock rise.  Hagglund has four years of college experience under his belt and will likely be the first defender off the bench for Ryan Nelson’s side.
  1. New England: Patrick Mullins (Maryland): The Revs get a steal, taking the two time Hermann Trophy winner at the number eleven pick.  Many expected Mullins to be picked at number one or for New England to take him at number four, so the fact that they snagged the Terps captain at number eleven is phenomenal.  Mullins, a forward at College Park is capable of playing as a second forward or on the wings.  Some don’t think Mullins’ playing style translates to the pros, but if it does, he will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
  1. Colorado Rapids: Marlon Hairston (Lousiville): The Rapids claim a long-term prospect in Hairston.  The Louisville two-way center midfielder is only a sophomore and has loads of potential.  The Generation Adidas player and US youth national teamer will provide back up for Dillon Powers until he fills out to be a starter.  Hairston has a huge upside and is a smart pick for a team that doesn’t have any desperate needs.
  1. Chicago Fire: Marco Franco (UC Irvine): The Fire claim the second best right back in the draft, Franco.  The UC Irvine captain played center back in college, but is a right back in the pros.  Franco, a smart technical player should fit well into the Fire back line.  Although not on the original MLS combine invite list, Franco performed well and surpassed Ben Sweat as the second best outside back in this draft class.
  1. Columbus Crew: Ben Sweat (USF): The Crew find the best and only true first round caliber left back in the country with Ben Sweat.  Columbus didn’t have any glaring needs so Sweat is a smart choice.  Sweat is an outside back who covers a lot of ground and could look to crack the Crew’s starting lineup with a good preseason.
  1. Philadelphia Union: Pedro Ribeiro (Coastal Carolina): The Union get a steal by taking the Brazilian playmaker at #15.  The 6’3” center midfielder has impressive feet and is a good distributer.  The Chanticleers senior dropped a bit in the draft due to his international status and his poor combine, but he’s a strong player to have in the middle.  If the Union don’t get Edu, Ribeiro could battle for a spot in the starting XI immediately.
  1. Houston Dynamo: AJ Cochran (Wisconsin): The Dynamo are short on center backs with the loss of Bobby Boswell, so they pick up a GA defender in AJ Cochran.  The Badgers leader has a great vertical leap and was deemed by many the third best center back in this draft class.  He’s a bit slow, but makes up for it with his strength.  A good draft choice for the Dynamo.
  1. Portland Timbers: Schillo Tshuma (Maryland): Coach Porter nags a player in Tshuma who was expected to go top 10 and could be the steal of the draft at #17.  Tshuma, a Generation Adidas prospect saw his stock drop after a tough sophomore campaign only scoring 6 goals.  As a quick player, he should fit in nicely in the Portland 4-3-3.  The Terp is a top prospect with a great upside, who should help the Timbers long term.
  1. Real Salt Lake: Ryan Neil (California): Neil, one of the surprises of the combine, is a quick winger who can play on either side.  The third University of California player taken, Neil is a good pick up for RSL.  He is a good bench option and provides depth on the wings.
  1. Colorado Rapids: Grant Van de Casteele (Notre Dame): The Rapids get a tough center back in Grant Van de Casteele.  The Irish defender was one of the key pieces in leading Notre Dame to their final four.  Van de Casteele had a good College Cup and combine, two things, which brought his stock up prior to the draft.

SECOND ROUND

  1. Chivas USA: Thomas McNamara (Clemson): Chivas get a crafty playmaker with the best mullet in the NCAA.  McNamara has unbelievable on ball skill, but needs to defend a little more to make it at the next level.
  1. Seattle Sounders: Jimmy Ockford (Louisville): The Sounders are clearly looking to build their defense and they nab a powerful center back who’s good in the air in Ockford.
  1. New York Red Bulls: Christ Duvall (Wake Forest):  The Red Bulls are low on outside backs, so they take the best available outside back in Duvall, a suitable back up.
  1. LA Galaxy: Kyle Venter (New Mexico):  Bruce Arena gets another steal in the Lobos captain, Venter.  The 6’3” center back had a good combine and many even saw him as a top 10 pick.  The only problem for Venter is the plethora of defensive talent currently in LA.
  1. Toronto FC: Daniel Lovitz (Elon University):  Toronto get one of the best wingers in the draft in Lovitz.  The senior captain could be a nice pickup on the left wing for the Reds.
  1. Philadelphia Union: Kevin Cope (Michigan State):  The Union get another great pick in Cope.  The Spartans senior was rated by many as a top 5 center back so getting him with pick #25 is a job well done by Hackworth.
  1. Portland Timbers: Taylor Peay (Washington):  The Timbers considered taking Peay with their first round pick so they are pleased the grab the talented 6’2” center back in the second round.
  1. Philadelphia Union: Robbie Derschang (Akron): The Union don’t have a defined left back and with Derschang they get an explosive left winger converted to a left back.  Derschang’s versatility makes him a commodity for Phili.
  1. San Jose Earthquakes: Joe Sofia (UCLA): San Jose takes a good one-on-one defender in Sofia who can play center back or even right back with Beitashour decides to leave for Europe.
  1. DC United: Victor Munoz (UCLA): DC United get a highly underrated creative midfielder in Munoz.  The Bruin playmaker will look to make an impact and fight for time with Luis Silva.
  1. Vancouver Whitecaps: Mamadou Diouf (UCONN): The Senegalese forward could be a solid signing for the Caps’ if he comes into his own.  Diouf, suffered injuries his senior year, but when healthy he was one of the most dominant forwards in the country.
  1. New England Revolution: Alec Sundly (California): The Revs grab a smart under the radar center midfielder in Sundly, who could be an adequate backup Scott Caldwell.
  1. Houston Dynamo: Mark Sherrod (Memphis): The Dynamo don’t have many forwards on the bench and in Sherrod they get a true number nine goal scorer.  Sherrod has good hold up play and could be an immediate impact player.
  1. Colorado Rapids: Jared Watts (Wake Forest):  The Rapids grab a first round talent in Watts, a three time first team All-ACC selection.  Watts, a natural leader and former US youth national team player plays simple and should make it at the next level.
  1. New York Red Bulls: Eric Stevenson (Akron): Petke finds a tremendously skilled player in Stevenson.  The shifty midfielder has battled injuries, but many see him as one of the best on ball talents in the draft.  He’s a good player in a weak position for RBNY.
  1. Colorado Rapids: Jon Berner (SIUE):  The Rapids need goalkeeping help and they take Berner, a 6’3” shot stopper many see as the best senior keeper in the country.
  1. Portland Timbers: Aaron Long (UC Riverside): The senior midfielder, Long, led the Highlanders in points and adds depth to this loaded Portland lineup.
  1.  Montreal Impact: George Malki (Cal Poly): Not on anybody’s radar coming into the draft, the Impact grab Malki, a technical winger and former US youth international.
  1. Sporting KC: Adnan Gabeljic (Saint Louis): The MLS Cup champs use their first pick of the draft on a forward, Gabeljc, a 6’3” striker who can play behind the likes of Dwyer and Bieler.

Ben Roth is a contributing writer for College Soccer News.  He reports today from Philadelphia were he was present at the 2014 MLS SuperDraft.  He can be reached by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.