Galaxy and D.C. join Toronto as biggest winners
ST. LOUIS -- With three first-round picks, Toronto FC always figured to be one of the controlling forces in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft. However, it was believed that Toronto would influence the draft by trading away some of those draft choices. When Toronto ended up keeping its picks and watched the draft fall in a way it could have only dreamed of, the Canadian club emerged as the big winner.
Along with Toronto, D.C. United and Los Angeles walked away as the biggest beneficiaries of a deep draft that had intriguing prospects available all the way up to the fourth round.
TORONTO FC: A-plus
Mo Johnston was expected to trade away at least two of his three first-round draft picks, but chose instead to keep all his picks. The decision resulted in Toronto FC grabbing what could wind up being one of the best collections of talent in league draft history.
When you get the best midfielder (Sam Cronin), the best goalkeeper (Stefan Frei) and someone who could arguably be the best forward when healthy (O'Brian White), you've had a good day. TFC could still wind up dealing Frei, but ultimately Toronto won the day because it collected a boatload of talent it could wind up keeping.
D.C. UNITED: A
D.C. doesn't usually wind up with high draft picks, but made the most of the two it had this year by grabbing Maryland left back Rodney Wallace and striker Chris Pontius at No. 6 and No. 7. Wallace was widely regarded as the best left back in the draft, while Pontius was considered by some to be the top striker after Steve Zakuani.
D.C. really stole the show with its later picks. Landing Wake Forest's Lyle Adams at No. 26 was an absolute steal, and Milos Kocic at No. 22 could prove to be a great long-term acquisition. All four of D.C.'s top picks have the ability to be long-term starters from the club once they develop.
LOS ANGELES GALAXY: A-minus
Bruce Arena hasn't lost his drafting touch. The man who found Dane Richards in the 2007 draft grabbed Omar Gonzalez at No. 3 overall, and might have found some late gems in A.J. Delagarza in the second round, Josh Boateng in the third round and Kyle Patterson in the fourth round.
Delagarza is small but was easily one of the best players at the combine. Boateng and Patterson were both very impressive attacking players who could definitely wind up making a roster that had a lot of dead weight on it in 2008. The Galaxy also succeeded in unloading Canadian left back Ante Jazic to Chivas USA, which should help give L.A. some cap flexibility.
NEW YORK RED BULLS: B-plus
The Red Bulls missed out on two players they were hoping to land, but the consolation prizes could wind up being better bets. New York had the good fortune of seeing Jeremy Hall, the best left-wing prospect in the draft, fall to them at No. 11. Then the Red Bulls responded to their favorite fullback after the first round (Evan Brown) being taken by grabbing a very exciting prospect in giant central defender Babajide Ogunbiyi.
New York's late picks could wind up shoring up the fullback spots, with Jack Traynor considered one of the top left backs in the draft, and right winger Nick Zimmerman, whom the club might try to convert into an attacking right back.
CHICAGO FIRE: B-plus
For a team that came into the draft with its highest pick being No. 28 overall, the Fire came out winners. Chicago dealt the rights to Matt Pickens and scored some allocation money as well as a move up the second-round order to grab local playmaker Baggio Husidic, a player Chicago could never have imagined being able to grab a week ago.
Where the Fire earned their surprising grade is in the later rounds, with picks such as underrated UC Irvine defender David Sias, who could fill the gap left by Lider Marmol. Fourth-rounder Richard Jata stole the show with a great speech at the draft, and just might have the skill to stick around. A player to watch for is fourth-round pick Jokull Elisabetarson, who has some game to go with his long name.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION: B
The Revs could have been tempted to trade up to try to grab one of the draft's better prospects, but wound up getting one without moving at all. Landing Kevin Alston at No. 10 overall was a great move that should provide depth at both fullback positions. Ryan Maxwell could give New England some blazing speed on the right flank.
New England took some gambles and scored one big steal, with Andrei Gotsmanov being a potential solution in an attacking midfield role and central defender Darrius Barnes being one of the steals of the draft at No. 40 overall. The Revs took fliers on midfielder Dado Hamzagic and forward Chris Salvaggione, but given their past success in the draft, you have to like their chances of finding a gem in this group.
FC DALLAS: B
The Hoops landed two players who could help right away in forward Peri Marosevic and central defender George John. Marosevic is only 19, but he is tenacious, physically and mentally mature and skilled as a striker. John was arguably the most skillful central defender in the draft. A converted midfielder, John is 6-foot-4 with very good passing skills, a rare and valuable combination.
SEATTLE SOUNDERS: B
When you get the best attacking prospect in the draft, as well as a right back who could challenge for a starting job, you have done well for yourself as an expansion team. Seattle's grade will ultimately hinge on Zakuani, who has the traits to either be a big star or a big flop.
Evan Brown didn't come in with much hype, and was largely overshadowed on his star-studded Wake Forest team, but he is a true attacking right back whom several teams coveted when Seattle grabbed him at No. 16.
COLORADO RAPIDS: B-minus
The Rapids didn't have a first-round pick but still came away from draft day with a starting goalkeeper (Matt Pickens in a trade from Chicago) and two speedy forwards (Kwame Adjeman-Pamboe and Jordan Seabrook). Adding long-term goalkeeping prospect Steward Ceus in the third round could also prove to be a good pick down the road.
Colorado could have had a higher score but seemed to take long-shot chances on some mediocre players in the fourth round. Also, the acquisition of Pickens is tempered by the loss of starting goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul.
KANSAS CITY WIZARDS: C
The Wizards had three of the top 23 picks and didn't exactly wow anybody with their selections. Defender Matt Besler is a solid left-footed central defender who is a hometown kid who could be a starter, but seemed like a bit of a reach at No. 8.
Doug DeMartin wasn't that impressive in the combine, while Graham Zusi also failed to do much. Zusi could wind up salvaging this draft for K.C. if he can develop into an attacking midfielder. Goalkeeper Neal Kitson felt like a reach, considering some of the other options still on the board.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES: C
The Earthquakes only had two picks and came away with some very intriguing prospects. Brad Ring could potentially step in and start for San Jose. A polished central midfielder who missed the combine with an injury, Ring had first-round talent. Quincy Amarikwa had a productive combine, but there are flaws in his game that had plenty of teams looking past him.
CHIVAS USA: C-minus
There is no shame in taking Michael Lahoud with the No. 9 overall pick -- he was regarded by some teams as a better prospect than No. 2 overall pick Sam Cronin -- but Chivas USA missed a chance to add a potential franchise player in Stefan Frei. It eventually surfaced that the club was losing Francisco Mendoza and could be losing Sacha Kljestan to Celtic, which makes it understandable, but the Goats could wind up regretting passing on Frei.
Chivas USA's later picks, Kyle Christensen and Jamie Franks, were lackluster, though Franks could wind up being a hidden gem. The Goats also lose some grade value for trading for the overpriced Ante Jazic.
HOUSTON DYNAMO: C-minus
What does a team with a strong roster and late draft picks do? They take long shots. Houston did just that by grabbing young midfielder Daniel Cruz in the third round and taking a flier on Marcus Tracy with a fourth-round pick.
Cruz had a very disappointing combine and left most teams feeling like he was not ready for the pro level, but Houston is the type of team that can bring him along slowly. The Tracy pick is a pure lottery ticket, with Houston having two years to hope that Tracy either washes out of or hates playing in Denmark.
COLUMBUS CREW: D
The Crew don't really need much and took some fliers. Left back Paul Gerstenberger was highly regarded before the combine but looked flat, and sources say he has a European passport and could be testing Europe. Columbus might actually wind up scoring with the final pick of the draft, Tulsa defender Chris Clements.
REAL SALT LAKE: F
When you only have one pick in the first three rounds you need to make it count, and RSL reached badly for midfielder Jean Alexandre. It isn't that Alexandre isn't a quality prospect -- he impressed some scouts at the combine with his tough tackling and physical qualities -- but he could have been taken in the second or even third round. Five years from now, RSL will wonder how it took Alexandre ahead of Stefan Frei (whom it could have traded).
Ives Galarcep covers MLS for ESPNsoccernet. He also writes a blog, Soccer By Ives. He can be reached at Ivespn79@aol.com.