Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Zakuani still the likely top pick in the SuperDraft
Ives Galarcep, Special to ESPNsoccernet
In talking to coaches and general managers throughout Major League Soccer, the consensus about the 2009 MLS Draft is that it is a well-stocked draft that could provide teams with productive prospects throughout the first round and into the second round.
Despite a mixed combine, Rodney Wallace remains a near certainty to be a first-round pick. (Scott Bales/Icon SMI)
This year's first round is especially interesting because two of the teams with multiple first-round picks, Toronto FC and FC Dallas, aren't looking to load up on younger players, which means we should see plenty of wheeling and dealing just before the draft, meaning predicting the draft order, let alone how the draft picks will go, is next to impossible.
However, for now, here is how I see the 2009 MLS SuperDraft shaking out (not taking into account any possible trades):
1. Seattle FC -- Steve Zakuani, Akron, F
Zakuani didn't do much at the combine at all, but some scouts still caught glimpses of the speed and skill that made him the top prospect coming into the draft. Seattle is seriously weighing offers for the top pick, and now looks more inclined to drop down and acquire more picks, but if Seattle stands pat, Zakuani is still the choice.
2. Toronto FC -- Stefan Frei, California, GK
Death, taxes and Mo Johnston making trades. Some things are just inevitable, and there are few things more inevitable than TFC trading this pick. Better said, TFC will not be keeping whoever is picked here, whether it is the pick being dealt, or Toronto drafting a player to deal. Frei is the best pro prospect in the draft and several teams are interested in moving up to acquire him. Toronto likes him too, but seem unlikely to keep him with Greg Sutton and Brian Edwards already in goal.
3. Los Angeles Galaxy -- Sam Cronin, Wake Forest, M
The long-held belief is that the Galaxy will target a Generation adidas player to help with the team's salary cap situation. The only problem is Bruce Arena insists that the cap won't keep the club from making the moves it needs to improve. If that is so, then taking Cronin is a no-brainer for a club that could use a player with his skill and poise in the central midfield. The club could also turn to Maryland central defender Omar Gonzalez, but Cronin is the better bet.
4. Toronto FC -- Omar Gonzalez, Maryland, D
Here is another pick that Toronto is very unlikely to keep. If Toronto picked based on need here you might see them grab Jeremy Hall, who didn't have a good combine. However, Toronto is more likely to draft Gonzalez and dangle him in a trade, with several teams likely to show interest. Gonzalez struggled on the first day of the combine but rebounded on the second day to show why he's such a highly regarded prospect. He could go as high as No. 2, but won't fall past No. 5 .5. FC Dallas -- Kevin Alston, Indiana, D
The Hoops addressed a major need with its acquisition of Dave van den Bergh and can now focus its attention defensive needs. Enter Alston, who is arguably the most polished fullback in the draft. A left back in college, Alston showed at the combine that he is better suited for right back, a position Dallas could afford to upgrade. Rodney Wallace is another option here, but his weak combine showing may lead to him sliding down the draft board.
6. D.C. United -- Jeremy Hall, Maryland, M
Another top prospect who was underwhelming at the combine, Hall is still too talented and highly regarded to fall past D.C., which could stand to get younger and more athletic. Yes, D.C. needs help in central defense but can address that with its second-round picks. There just aren't center back options in the first round unless D.C. wants to put together a package to move up and grab Gonzalez.
7. D.C. United -- Peri Marosevic, Michigan, F
Few players impressed more at the combine than U-20 striker Marosevic, who showed strength and impeccable finishing ability. He has a nose for goal and is quicker than you would expect. He would be an appealing long-term prospect for a team that has some aging attacking options, such as Jaime Moreno.
8. Kansas City Wizards -- Chris Pontius, UCSB, F
The most polished forward in the draft, Pontius also showed an ability to play on the left wing. He has good size, a strong shot and can turn on defenders. If he were a Generation adidas player he would probably be a top-five pick. The Wizards would have preferred a good central midfield prospect, but Pontius is too good to pass up.
9. Chivas USA -- Rodney Wallace, Maryland, D
So why would the Goats draft a left back when they have Jonathan Bornstein? Sources insist that Preki is looking to deal Bornstein, who is in the final year of his MLS contract, and could groom Wallace as a replacement. Wallace could very well go a few spots higher, but there are questions about just how much more he has to learn to be ready to play consistently in MLS. That said, his athleticism and Generation adidas status will assure him of going no later than ninth.
10. New England -- Michael Lahoud, Wake Forest, M
The Revs aren't likely to find the central defender they need at this pick and are more likely to go with the best available player. Lahoud impressed several scouts with his quality play in central midfield, where he can cover a lot of ground and transition into the attack well. A bit undersized, Lahoud is still a sharp passer who could draw attention from teams picking higher.
11. New York -- Babajide Ogunbiyi, Santa Clara, D
Few players were more impressive at the combine than Ogunbiyi, who was dominant in the air and always put himself in good positions. At 6-foot-4 and 212 pounds, Ogunbiyi could develop into a force in the middle. The Red Bulls also covet left-sided players, both in midfield and at fullback, but the players the club would take with the his pick are off the board. Wake Forest right backs Evan Brown and Lyle Adams are the type of attacking fullbacks Juan Carlos Osorio might take here.
12. Real Salt Lake -- Kyle Patterson, St. Louis, M
RSL is looking for a right winger and Patterson was one of the more impressive ones at the combine. He is quick enough to beat defenders and passes well, but he didn't show off much crossing ability, which might keep him from going this high. RSL could also turn to a forward, such as O'Brian White or Jordan Seabrook, or a defender such as Notre Dame's Matt Besler, who was one of the more impressive central defenders in the combine.
13. Toronto FC -- O'Brian White, Connecticut, F
White is recovering from ACL surgery and may not be back until June, but his stock has actually gone up considerably since the departures of Marcus Tracy and Mike Grella for Europe. With the forward pool thinner, White could actually wind up going higher in the draft (though the fact he hasn't signed with MLS yet could deter teams). It shouldn't be forgotten that if White, the 2007 Hermann Award winner, had come out as a junior last year he would have been a top-three pick. D.C. United and Real Salt Lake are also rumored to be interested in the speedy striker.
14. FC Dallas -- Brad Ring, Indiana, MAnother player who might have benefited from missing the combine (he was injured), Ring is a solid central midfielder who could help provide some depth for the Hoops. The Hoops could also look for a central defender, such as Besler or Duke's Darius Barnes.
15. New England -- Matt Besler, Notre Dame, D
The Revs won't have an easy time replacing Michael Parkhurst, and will be hoping Gabriel Badilla can do the job. Look for them to grab the best central defender available in order to build up some depth. Besler, St. Louis' Calum Angus, Barnes and Washington's George John are all capable center back prospects who could be drafted here, but look for Besler to get the call.
Ives Galarcep covers MLS for ESPNsoccernet. He also writes a blog, Soccer By Ives. He can be reached at Ivespn79@aol.com.