The Draft isn’t going to make a break a team’s season. But there are still players coming into Major League Soccer from college soccer that could add value.
Assessing what might happens in this year’s MLS SuperDraft 2021 presented by adidas (2 pm ET | MLSsoccer.com) is more difficult than ever, after the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered the bulk of the 2020 fall college campaign. But the teams at the top are in a position to bring in players of promise.
Austin FC are heading toward their inaugural season. With homegrown signings a few years away, the No. 1 pick is the chance to add a younger player to its growing group. Obvious starters are few and far between. But Alistair Johnston did come in and see significant minutes on Nashville SC, a reminder that there is likely a candidate or two out there that can come in and impress right away.
Philip Mayaka, Clemson (Midfielder)
Picking first overall, Austin can grab an off-budget roster player from the Generation adidas class. Mayaka has potential to play minutes sooner rather than later and can be plugged into central midfield.
Calvin Harris, Wake Forest (Forward)
The dribbling forward from the ACC power could add a dynamic forward talent to a team that could certainly use an attacking punch. Harris isn’t going to transform the team by himself, however.
Ethan Bartlow, Washington (Defender)
A late addition to the Generation adidas class. Bartlow may not have the same upside as the first two players picked but his floor is likely a solid MLS starter, as he excels at defending and is good enough on the ball that he has the ability to carve out a long career in the league.
Josh Bauer, New Hampshire (Defender)
One of several solid central defenders among the senior class, Bauer could slot in and play minutes in the upcoming season.
Nabi Kibunguchy, UC Davis (Defender)
A center back from the Big West, Kibunguchy offers Atlanta a player that could compete for the first team or slot down with Atlanta United 2 to get seasoning early on. He’d be a bridge to homegrown signings in central defense like Efrain Morales and George Campbell.
Kimarni Smith, Clemson (Forward)
The Rapids must have a clear plan here, having acquired the pick from the Fire in December. Smith is a talented forward that could play up front or out wide.
Real Salt Lake
Aime Mabika, Kentucky (Defender)
A 6-foot-6-inch central defender, Mabika’s a fascinating prospect to come in and see if he can pick up minutes right away. RSL has enough depth that he doesn’t have to play right away, but it would be a boost for the team’s back line to go this direction.
Matt Di Rosa, Maryland (Defender)
The Maryland left back is a versatile and hard-working player for a Portland side that shipped out both outside backs Jorge Villafana and Marco Farfan during the offseason.
Bret Halsey, Virginia (Defender/Midfielder)
The second late addition to the Generation adidas class, Halsey is a good option for Vancouver with the combination of roster flexibility and depth at right back that he offers.
Inter Miami CF
Rio Hope-Gund, Georgetown (Defender)
Another center back goes in the top 10, with Hope-Gund on the way to South Florida to reunite with former Georgetown teammate Dylan Nealis.
Daniel Pereira, Virginia Tech (Midfielder)
Would Pereira really fall this far in the draft? It could be unlikely, but in this scenario, Austin could add another central midfield option for a team that has the international roster space to accommodate both him and Mayaka.
San Jose Earthquakes
David Egbo, Akron (Forward)
A dynamic attacking player for the Zips in his three seasons, Egbo has the pedigree and ability to score goals in MLS. The Quakes could use the attacking depth, even with Chris Wondolowski back for another season.
New York Red Bulls
Luther Archimede, Syracuse (Forward)
The Guadeloupe international would be a good fit for the Red Bulls' style of play. He needs to add more end product in the final third to be a true success, but he’d provide physicality and quality from the wings.
Colin Shutler, Virginia (Goalkeeper)
With just two goalkeepers on the roster, LAFC are in a position to pick from a decent crop of shot-stoppers. Shutler is good with the ball at his feet as well, surely a bonus for Bob Bradley.
Josh Drack, Denver (Defender)
Can Drack defend well enough to stick? He’s a true left-footer that played as more of an attacker during his college career. But FC Dallas have the track record in Ryan Hollingshead of converting a more attack-minded player into an outside back, and Drack would give them a left-footed player on that side of the field.
Talen Maples, SMU (Defender)
Slightly undersized for a central defender in MLS, the Texas native could be deployed along the backline or given a shot in defensive midfield.
New York City FC
Andrew Pannenberg, Wake Forest (Goalkeeper)
Goalkeeper is one spot that NYCFC could look to address through the draft, with two currently rostered. Pannenberg has the frame and tools to excel at the next level if he’s given the opportunity.
Justin Malou, Clemson (Defender)
One of the ACC players that boosted his stock during the 2020 season, Malou can play as a right back or centrally, offering the versatility needed to stick on an MLS roster.
Orlando City SC
Aedan Stanley, Sporting KC II/Duke (Defender)
A true left back that left school after 2019 to sign with Portland Timbers 2, the U.S. youth international joined SKCII earlier in the year. He is draft-eligible, so Orlando would be able to snap up his rights and give him a look as a left back depth option.
Josh Penn, Indy Eleven/Indiana Univ. (Forward)
With a deep roster already and no immediate needs to fill, Nashville could look to pick up Penn’s rights and make a pitch to the talented forward to join their squad from Indy Eleven.
Giuseppe Barone, Michigan State (Midfielder)
Even if central midfield isn’t a screaming need for the Rapids, Barone’s a name that could be overlooked on draft day after he missed most of 2019 due to injury. A central midfielder that is good on the ball, he has upside to make the roster.
Orlando City SC
Irakoze Donasiyano, Virginia (Midfielder)
Another key player for Virginia during their strong 2019 campaign, Donasiyano is a bit raw but has shown enough at a high level for Orlando to grab him here and invite him into camp.
Danny Trejo, CSUN (Forward)
Stanley played for the Blue Devils in 2018 and 2019, before joining T2 for the 2020 USL Championship season. Added to the draft pool, he’s a sneaky talent for a team aiming to build it’s depth at the back.
New England Revolution
Kristo Strickler, Virginia Tech (Forward)
Can New England continue its recent success at the draft in this spot? Strickler went from walk-on to one of the best goal-scorers in the ACC. Bruce Arena certainly could find a way for it to continue working in MLS.
Minnesota United FC
Derek Dodson, Georgetown (Forward)
The crafty and clever forward has been a standout for the Hoyas in his three seasons in the nation’s capital, scoring 30 times in three seasons. Minnesota have the need for a striker, opening the door for Dodson.
Inter Miami CF
Javain Brown, Atlanta United II/South Florida (Defender)
Having signed with Atlanta United 2, Miami could take advantage of Brown’s inclusion in the draft pool and select the Jamaican youth international. Brown is very athletic and could play either as an undersized center back or get a look as an outside back.
Columbus Crew SC
Logan Panchot, Stanford (Defender)
The 2020 MLS Cup champs already have a slew of young talent with college experience on the roster, including Aidan Morris, Sebastian Berhalter, Aboubacar Keita and the recently signed Isaiah Parente. Grabbing right back depth at the end of the first round in the form of Panchot could yield a solid potential backup.