What to get for a team that has everything? That seems to be the age-old question facing Atlanta United as it enters the 2019 MLS SuperDraft as reigning MLS Cup champions. Incoming Frank de Boer’s decisions will concern which talented players won’t crack the starting XI, not how he will fill holes in the squad.
So, this draft is undoubtedly aimed at the long term. What are the team’s long term needs? Looking at the roster, it’s easy to see that they are stacked in the attacking end with young talent. However, two of the club’s most valuable defensive players, Michael Parkhurst and Jeff Larentowicz are nearing the ends of their careers. It makes perfect sense to try and find a defensive player who could develop for a year or two with ATL UTD 2 and hopefully become a depth piece for the first team down the road.
Round 1, Pick 24 - Rece Buckmaster - Indiana University
With the last pick of the first round, you’re likely not going to find that ultra diamond in the rough like Julian Gressel. Rece Buckmaster is a versatile defender with not a lot of size. Sound familiar? Versatility will be key for Atlanta United under de Boer. The ability to play a three-back or four-back formation will be useful. Having a defender that can play multiple positions like Franco Escobar, Julian Gressel and Michael Parkhurst is vital to being able to do that.
Buckmaster played all four years at Indiana, earning Second-Team All-Big Ten honors in his senior season. While he projects as more of a defensive player in MLS, he was able to get forward and create plenty of chances from the right back spot in college. This demonstrates his ball-playing ability, which will serve him well in a technical style of play that demands playing in tight spaces and moving the play from the back without panicking.
Parkhurst won’t be around for too much longer, but while he’s here, someone like Buckmaster would be a perfect protege for him to take under his wing.