The big story heading into this year’s SuperDraft was where Hermann Trophy winner Darlington Nagbe, regarded as hands-down the top player in the 2011 class, would end up.
Somewhat surprisingly, the forward/midfielder slipped to second – the Vancouver Whitecaps opted for teenage sensation Omar Salgado with their No. 1 pick – where he was readily scooped up by the Portland Timbers.
It’s taken nearly a full season, but the rookie attacker has finally shown the talent he displayed for last year’s NCAA title-winning Akron Zips. In his last 10 starts, Nagbe has scored twice and dished out three assists.
Thus, with the recent hot form Nagbe has shown, we at MLSsoccer.com decided to give a nod to the three top players ever to be picked second overall since the MLS SuperDraft was first instituted in 2000.
Taylor Twellman, New England Revolution
Players come and players go, but few are as talented and beloved as current soccer analyst and former New England and US national team forward Taylor Twellman.
A standout at Maryland – Twellman finished as a runner-up for the Hermann Trophy and MAC Player of the Year award in his sophomore year – the striker signed with Bundesliga side 1860 München after two years with the Terps.
Unable to crack The Lions’ first team, Twellman returned to the US and, in 2002, was selected by New England in the SuperDraft. Once in MLS, he proved to be one of the league’s most lethal finishers, scoring 101 career MLS goals.
A two-time MLS Best XI selection, a five-time MLS All-Star and the 2005 MLS MVP and Golden Boot winner, medical issues forced Twellman to call it a career in 2010, but his name will forever be etched in MLS lore.
Chad Marshall, Columbus Crew
The big man has shown big talent since the Crew scooped him up out of Stanford in the 2004 SuperDraft.
A stalwart for Columbus since his rookie campaign – Marshall was a finalist for the MLS Rookie of the Year award – he anchored the defense that helped the Crew win their first Supporters’ Shield in ’04 and was a dominating force in the back until a concussion derailed him in 2007, keeping him out for the majority of that season.
But Marshall came back stronger than ever in 2008, his most successful season as a pro. That year, the 27-year-old was as dominant as ever, earning an MLS Best XI nod as he took home the Defender of the Year award and the Crew conquered both the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup.
He repeated as Defender of the Year in 2009 and again was named to the MLS Best XI as Columbus defended the Shield.
Despite his success at the club level, Marshall hasn’t been able to hold down a spot on the US national team and was left off the 2010 World Cup roster.
Brek Shea, FC Dallas
When FC Dallas selected Brek Shea in the 2008 SuperDraft, they got this hybrid player; he had the size of a center back, but the speed and attacking ability of a forward.
Head coach Schellas Hyndman tried Shea on defense during friendlies in 2008, but in 2009, the gaffer quickly realized the lanky teenager belonged in the attacking third when he dished out four assists and locked down a starting spot.
Shea continued to build on his performances and, in 2010, he matched the four assists from the previous year, but also showed he could be a scoring threat too by adding five goals to his résumé as FCD made a run to MLS Cup.
His play earned him his first appearance in a US kit, and the call-ups have continued in 2011, by far Shea’s finest campaign in his young career.
With FCD missing playmaker and 2010 MLS MVP David Ferreira, the 21-year-old Shea has shouldered much of the offensive burden for the club. He’s exploded for 10 goals and three assists despite starting the season at center back, and earned his first MLS All-Star nod as well as the most fan votes in MLSsoccer.com’s 24-Under-24 poll.
The young superstar is set to keep lighting MLS on fire, having signed a deal that will keep him in FCD hoops through 2015.