Here it is: the definitive, Nostradamus-inspired prediction of the MLS SuperDraft's first round. Well, it will be definitive right up to the point where MLS commissioner Don Garber ascends the podium and utters the fateful words "Chivas USA are on the clock." At that point, all bets are off.
That's because this year's draft has more questions surrounding it than an episode of "Jeopardy!" Will Chivas USA hang onto the first pick, or will they be able to exchange it for a king's ransom? Are coaches leaguewide really that infatuated with Marvell Wynne, or is it more a case of bait meets switch? And will Blake Wagner's showing at the MLS combine allow him to sneak into the first round, thus striking a blow for the U.S. U-17 national team?
Those questions aside, any mock draft will be blown up the moment the first trade is announced. And with the MetroStars being linked with just about every striker in the country, that's about as likely as Wynne being taken first overall. Speaking of which...
1. Chivas USA -- Marvell Wynne, D, UCLA
Not since the Titanic have there been so many holes to fill, and so few tools with which to plug them. Bob Bradley has only two picks in the first four rounds, which makes it a bit impractical for the Goats to hang on to the selection. If Bradley can prize away a starter and an additional draft choice, while at the same time swapping first-round slots, then it will be a case of mission accomplished.
Otherwise, he takes Wynne with the first pick, hoping the Bruin will buck the trend of the first overall selection falling well short of expectations. Bradley was quoted at the combine as saying that Wynne could play "anywhere on the backline." Given the defense he's inheriting, Bradley probably wishes the presumptive first pick could play everywhere at once.
2. Real Salt Lake -- Mehdi Ballouchy, M, Santa Clara
RSL head coach John Ellinger is said to admire players with extreme technical ability, and Ballouchy fits that description. Like their expansion brethren, Real need help all over, but selecting Ballouchy will allow them to keep Jason Kreis up front, and with newly acquired Douglas Sequeira acting as his bodyguard, Ballouchy could thrive on the Wasatch Front.
Such a selection comes with plenty of risks. Past drafts have yielded few attacking midfielders who have actually made that position their own. One thing is for sure: Ballouchy should get plenty of chances to prove he is the guy to drive the Real Salt Lake attack.
3. Columbus -- Jason Garey, F, Maryland
Head coach Sigi Schmid is said to be one of Wynne's many admirers and was rumored to be interested in the No. 1 pick. But with the Crew having acquired four defenders in the last month, it figures that Schmid's attentions will be directed elsewhere. He could do a lot worse than nab the Hermann Trophy winner, especially if the rumored deal of Edson Buddle heading to the MetroStars goes through. That could result in some significant playing time for Garey, whose predatory instincts in front of goal could do much to help the Crew's cause.
Schmid also is said to be looking for a defensive midfielder, and UCLA's Patrick Ianni might be the player he covets there. But with Columbus also possessing the No. 9 pick, Schmid likely will wait until later in the round to fill that position.
4. Kansas City -- Sacha Kljestan, M, Seton Hall
The Wizards could use some more creativity in the center of the park, and Kljestan would fill that need and then some. With Josh Wolff and Scott Sealy possibly occupied by the World Cup this summer, head coach Bob Gansler might need to shore up his forward line, but with this edition of the draft thin in the forward department, Gansler probably will opt for the proverbial best player available.
5. MetroStars -- Nathan Sturgis, D, Clemson
Another team said to be in the Wynne sweepstakes, but the Metros probably will have to settle for Wynne's U-20 teammate instead. In a draft that is deep at center back, Sturgis is touted as the best of the bunch, and it's an assessment the Tiger backed up at the combine with a series of excellent performances. Sturgis also will help a MetroStars backline that no longer has the services of Jeff Agoos and Tim Ward.
6. FC Dallas -- Dax McCarty, M, North Carolina
Even with all the trade rumors swirling around this team, one thing is for sure: Dallas will draft a player who won't count against the cap, as they have quite a few high-salaried players on their roster. The Hoops' most pressing need is at outside back, but given that they possess two second-round picks, they might opt to wait until that round, when players like Wake Forest's Justin Moose, Clemson's Justin Moore and U.S. U-17 international Blake Wagner might still be around.
That frees FCD to take McCarty, whose stock was high heading into the combine -- and even higher at the combine's conclusion. A versatile two-way player who can fill in at a variety of midfield positions, McCarty has excellent skills and terrific vision, especially given that he's only 18.
7. D.C. United -- Patrick Ianni, D-M, UCLA
The Black-and-Red could use some more depth on the backline as well as in midfield, and if they select Ianni, they'll get a versatile player who satisfies both requirements. He played mostly at center back for the Bruins, and on this team, that's most likely where he'll line up. Some have pegged Ianni as a future defensive midfielder, but even with the departure of Dema Kovalenko, and with Brian Carroll possibly away on World Cup duty, United have plenty of depth in the middle with Ben Olsen and Clyde Simms. That makes Ianni a better candidate to compete for one of the backline spots.
If Peter Nowak and Co. decide midfield help is a greater need, they might opt to take Brian Plotkin instead.
8. Houston -- Brian Plotkin, M, Indiana
If Ianni is still around at this point, expect head coach Dominic Kinnear to snap him up. But if Ianni is gone, then Plotkin should get the nod. Kinnear likes versatile players, and Plotkin fits that role to a T. With the likes of Dwayne De Rosario, Ricardo Clark and Danny O'Rourke already operating in the middle of the park, Plotkin most likely will see time out wide, especially with the retirement of Mark Chung leaving Houston a bit thin on the flanks.
9. Columbus -- Jeff Carroll, M, St. John's
With Simon Elliott now plying his trade in the EPL, the Crew need a defensive midfielder. With Ianni gone, Columbus would get the next best thing, and perhaps a player more naturally suited to that position anyway. Carroll was another player whose stock rose at the combine. Smooth on the ball and tough in the tackle, he could be just what the doctor ordered for Schmid's side.
10. Chicago -- Justin Moose, M, Wake Forest
The Fire are loaded with left-sided players, with the likes of Gonzalo Segares, Ivan Guerrero and Justin Mapp on the books. Acquiring a right-sided player of similar ability would give Chicago better balance, and after his performance at last week's combine, Moose might be just the guy to do it.
The Wake product has the engine to get up and down the wing and, as the Demon Deacons' all-time assist leader, he has shown an ability to use the ball well.
11. New England -- Blake Wagner, D-M, U.S. U-17 national team
While the general consensus is that no U-17 player will get taken in the first round, Wagner's performance at the combine might have done enough to change that view, and he seems a perfect fit for New England, given the team's needs.
Coming off the Revs' appearance in last year's MLS Cup Final, it's evident they don't need much, but a left-sided player who can get up and down the flank is one of the few holes this team has. With good size, and the kind of technical ability head coach Steve Nicol loves, Wagner seems an ideal candidate to end up in New England.
12. Los Angeles -- Jed Zayner, D, Indiana
Word out of L.A. is that the Galaxy need cover in the back. Michael Umana has been waived, and Pablo Chinchilla is rumored to be out the door, as well. With Chris Albright suffering a knee injury earlier this month, drafting a defender becomes even more imperative. Zayner could be just what the Galaxy need, in that he's left-footed and, despite a college career that saw him spend most of his time in the middle, has the speed to play out wide.
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPNsoccernet. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org