The first two rounds of the MLS draft were on Friday. In an effort to be as much like the NFL as possible, the league has made the draft into an Event. It now takes two days spread across an entire weekend to conduct the draft. Last year, there were maybe five players from the draft who made an impact with their team. Julian Gressel, Abu Danladi, Jack Elliot, and Niko Hansen were about the only players taken that were relevant in 2017. Some players might develop and break into their teams down the line, but of the 88 potential picks last year there were 7 times where teams just didn’t pick anyone and selected to pass.
For something that’s generally a marginal pipeline for MLS players, there’s a lot of attention paid to the draft, or not paid to it as it seems some clubs decide to do. A few teams made some magnificent picks, while others are Sporting Kansas City. Some clubs also made news by making big trades too. Here are some of the highlights...
Houston Dynamo: A++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Houston picked a goalie, but who cares about that, this is all about picking the MLS version of Abedayo Akinfenwa, a man named Mac Steeves (he’s the absolute Unit in the center of the picture taking up 90% of the frame).
Ever since I saw Mac Steeves turn a human into charcoal powder at the 2014 College Cup, I’ve been convinced he is the greatest FW of his generation. Also, he is 6-11, 730 pounds. pic.twitter.com/gDEwa0G6Xr— Will Parchman (@WillParchman) January 19, 2018
Steeves is going to force Adidas to create a new size category for its kits and I can’t wait to see Maxi Moralez line up to mark him on a corner for some reason. A 7 foot tall - half ton man should do a lot to crush opposing defenders when all else fails. He’s easily the most impressive pick in the draft.
Philadelphia Union: F minus
The Union made the biggest splash of the offseason since the team picked up Freddy Adu in 2011 with the acquisition of David Accam on Friday. The Ghanaian came to Philly after generally doing everything he could to make himself unwelcome with the Chicago Fire. In exchange for the attacker, the Fire got $1.2 million in allocation money to help pay for Bastian Schweinsteiger’s medical bills. That might sound like a fair trade, but the details of the deal set a new standard in desperation and fleecing the future of your club on one player who has been between electrifying and invisible in his MLS career:
Some more detail coming to my @ESPNFC story, per source: Fire keep 90% of Accam's rights should he be sold in 2018. Goes to 65-35 Fire in first 6 months of 2019 and 50% in latter half of year. Drops to 40% in first 6 months of 2020 and then 15% until end of 2020.— Paul Tenorio (@PaulTenorio) January 19, 2018
Got that? If the Union sell Accam in 2018 they’d have to get $12 million to recoup their investment after shelling out the 90% to the Fire. Al Capone himself could not have written a transfer that feels more like extortion than a trade.
DC United: A minus
It’s taken DC about 30 years but they finally figured out the MLS Draft:
This is my favorite time of year, when MLS clubs spend their resources pouring over a draft that’ll include 8 draftable players in 120 picks.— Will Parchman (@WillParchman) January 14, 2018
Rather than find one of those 8 players for a USL team they’re never going to start or make a gamble on a player that will just take playing time away from Nick DeLeon, DC traded their pick to LAFC for $200,000 in allocation money. Then they unveiled their new kit, it looks like it belongs to FC Undertaker. I can’t wait to see them try to choke the life out of games again without a keeper as good as Bill Hamid this season.
Minnesota United: Incomplete
The Loons are set at forward and back up forward so they drafted another backup forward in Mason Toye. Then knowing they could never do worse than having Vadim Demidov and Jermaine Taylor on their team, Minnesota picked defenders Wyatt Omsberg and Carter Manley. Their final pick was central midfielder Xavier Gomez. It isn’t so much that these picks are good or bad, it’s that they don’t address the fact that outside of Kevin Molino, a winger that their manager plays as a no. 10, and Christian Ramirez, a legit good striker, the team is missing players that will allow them to be competitive in MLS. They’ve added young backups to their roster which is basically comprised completely of young backups. They might have been better served trading a pick or two for allocation money and then making a play for Lee Nguyen, but that’s not what they did. Get with it Minnesota.
Columbus Crew: Double F minus
The Crew, who have one of the best keepers in MLS, took another keeper, a forward and a midfielder. They also waved goodbye to one of the best strikers in MLS trading Ola Kamara, who had been the top 5 in the league in goal scoring in both of his seasons in MLS, for $400,000 in allocation money and Gyasi Zardes. So not only did they sell themselves short and take less than what Kamara was worth (if Dwyer is worth $1.6 million in allocation money, Kamara is worth $2 million) in order to signal that they’re tanking, but Anthony Precourt will also force Crew fans to watch Gyasi Zardes’ ham footed first touch ruin passes from whoever they get to replace Justin Meram with.
Sporting KC: F plus
KC gets an F plus because it’s clear that they have no idea what they are doing as a front office. They needed a forward and badly. How’d they get in this desperate situation? The team traded Dom Dwyer for a lot more than he was worth in the summer to Orlando City. Then in a spectacular act of outsmarting itself, the team traded for Kenwyne Jones and Alex Tambakis, giving Atlanta a draft pick and a bunch of USL level players. The idea of the trade was that it would prevent LAFC from taking one of their players. It hilariously didn’t work and LAFC took forward Latif Blessing and then they traded Benny Feilhaber to LAFC also. In order to make up for it, they took a goalkeeper named Eric Dick from Butler University while they missed out on signing Josh Sargent to a homegrown contract because MLS doesn’t play the kids.
Atlanta United: A+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
The Five Stripes took two forwards and an attacking midfielder, we’ll have a deeper dive in the team’s picks elsewhere. Those are nice picks, but Atlanta won the draft. While Houston was announcing they’d drafted a brick outhouse, Atlanta made another draft pick of sorts:
Welcome aboard, @EzeBarco10. pic.twitter.com/C3aK1DWsD0— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) January 19, 2018
OK so it cost the team $15 million, but this is the best move of the day and it isn’t even close.