Armchair Analyst: Did the Philadelphia Union win the 2014 MLS SuperDraft?
PHILADELPHIA – Everybody assesses their draft after the day is done. "We did well with what we had," can come up short against "We should have been more aggressive in moving up."
Or maybe "Sitting tight was the right call."
But here's the thing: We won't really know how good (or bad) this draft was until, say, 2016 at the earliest. Take everything below with a grain of salt:
Better Today Than They Were Yesterday
Philadelphia Union – Andre Blake, Pedro Ribeiro and Kevin Cope are all potential starters. Or, at the very least, they're guys who will eat up first-team minutes as soon as MatchDay 1 of this coming season.
And then with their final pick of the day they took an honest-to-goodness left-footed soccer player in Robbie Derschang. This is pretty much the exact opposite of last year's performance from the Union.
New England Revolution – Full disclosure: I'm higher on Steve Neumann than most. I think his ability to create instant separation on the ball is elite, as is his ability to pick the game-changing pass. He fits in well with the likes of Kelyn Rowe, Lee Nguyen and Diego Fagundez.
The real steal, though, was Patrick Mullins at No. 11. Getting a potential starter there (and yes, he's a potential starter) is simply great work by Jay Heaps & Co. Alec Sundly has a shot at sticking around as well.
Houston Dynamo – It was almost like the Dynamo weren't there, as they just sat tight and stayed out of all the horse-trading that was the story of the day. That patience paid off, first with Generation adidas center back A.J. Cochran (dominant in the air and with a sweet left foot) in the first round, then with target forward Mark Sherrod in the second round.
Both guys will get minutes, and Cochran has "long-term starter" potential.
Colorado Rapids – They went for potential with their first pick in Marlon Hairston, then got two "Hey, that guy could start!" selections in central defender Grant Van De Casteele and d-mid Jared Watts.
If you want a second-round Rookie of the Year dark horse, Watts is your pick.
D.C. United – Traded down and still got the guy they wanted in Steve Birnbaum, and the other guy they wanted (allocation cash!). Then made a very clever trade for a very clever player, UCLA attacker Victor Muñoz, in the second.
That Wasn't the Plan ... But It Worked Out
Vancouver Whitecaps – I'm so conflicted. Their offer to D.C. United for the No. 1 spot (with which they'd have taken Blake) was trumped, which was pretty harsh for 'Caps fans.
That Actually Was the Plan
San Jose Earthquakes – Neither J.J. Koval nor Joe Sofia is going to start, but Koval, at least, should eat up some minutes in the central midfield. He's very similar to a guy who's already there (Sam Cronin), and should fit the Mark Watson's scheme pretty well.
Chicago Fire – I had them taking Marco Franco with the 13th pick in my Mock Draft, so obviously I approve of that choice. Franco is smart and technical, and with Jalil Anibaba gone, he has a chance to play right away at right back.
Real Salt Lake – Does Ryan Neil fit a need for RSL? Not really. But he was the best talent on the board at No. 18, and his ability to beat defenders at pace with the ball on his foot is an MLS skill. Stockpiling assets is how you make the playoffs year after year after year.
Portland Timbers – Lewis is the guy they really wanted, but Caleb Porter said last week that if Schillo Tshuma falls, that's the other guy he'd take.
Tshuma fell, so Portland took him. And now they have two years (at least) of Generation adidas roster-exempt attacker to mold.
Columbus Crew – Ben Sweat doesn't fill an immediate, glaring, obvious need. But he's an athletic left back with a bit of skill, which is the type of talent you don't pass on at No. 14.
Toronto FC – They got two guys, in Nick Hagglund and Daniel Lovitz, who will make the final roster. Lovitz, in particular, could be a steal on that left wing. Solid, mistake-free talent selection is something new for the Reds.
Chivas USA – The Goats have needs everywhere, so the biggest thing was finding "talent." They got that in Tommy McNamara, who connects passes in the final third and plays solid, smart soccer. He's an immediate improvement for this team.
LA Galaxy – Kyle Venter was rated anywhere from No. 8 to No. 18, and absolutely nobody had him falling into the second round. Somehow, Bruce Arena just keeps finding talent like that.
Sporting KC – Here's what SKC got with the No. 19 pick, which they traded to New England last year:
— Sporting Kansas City (@SportingKC) January 16, 2014
Time Will Have to Tell
FC Dallas – Traded down, then traded back up to pick Tesho Akindele No. 6. He's raw, but he's got speed and size, two things that Dallas could use.
Neither guy is good enough on the ball to play significant minutes from the start, which may be an issue for a team that's essentially hitting the reset button on central defense.
New York Red Bulls – Reached to take Chris Duvall early in the second round, then took Eric Stevenson – whose skill set is redundant on this roster – 12 picks later. All this while there there plenty of serviceable-to-good central defenders on the board.