Yes, I am back with another Best XI. No, mascots are not involved.
Thursday is the big day for 81 players. The MLS SuperDraft 2021 presented by adidas goes down at 2 pm ET. Join myself, Charlie Davies, Matt Doyle and Devon Kerr for the first round LIVE on every MLS channel (MLSsoccer.com, the MLS App, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pluto TV.). We’ve got every pick, interviews and much more. You can also follow along via MLSsoccer.com’s Draft Tracker. It’s a fun day. Dreams become reality.
I’ve been digging back through the recent history of the SuperDraft the last few weeks, an annual reminder that, yes, true game-changing ability can still be found in the college ranks, though not en masse. Situation matters. As Doyle said repeatedly on Extratime’s SuperDraft preview, “Fit and opportunity.”
More fun is to look back on the careers launched, in MLS and otherwise, by the SuperDraft over the years. I mean Super, no College Player Draft (1996-99) or Supplemental (i.e. no Chris Wondolowski). This is my SuperDraft Best XI, with apologies to many, many snubs. I did not consider draft position, either. I understand why that might matter to you.
It’s a pointless distinction, I admit, but it does leave plenty of room for addition, subtraction, disagreement and explanation. I’m down to do that on Twitter, if you want.
Nick Rimando (2000 - Miami Fusion)
Years on years. Records on records. Brad Guzan has a real complaint here.
LB: Justin Morrow (2010 – San Jose Earthquakes)
I would like to start by apologizing to Todd Dunivant, who collected trophies like candy as a quiet but crucial member of the early aughts LA Galaxy dynasty. He’ll continue to have an impact on MLS as general manager of Sacramento Republic. Still, I’m taking Morrow, and if I can choose a vintage, that magnificent 2017 season.
CB: Chad Marshall (2004 – Columbus Crew)
Best SuperDraft pick ever, I argued on Extratime. Club anchor, and not the kind that sinks the boat.
CB: Carlos Bocanegra (2000 – Chicago Fire)
Imagine drafting a near-immediate Best XI and Defender of the Year favorite, a decade career in Europe (four different countries), more than 100 US national team caps and captaincy at a World Cup.
RB: Graham Zusi (2009 - Kansas City Wizards)
Among the best one-club men in MLS history. Zusi’s got more than a decade and counting all over the pitch for Sporting (and the KC Wizards originally). He went from little-used second rounder to 55 caps with the US and the Best XI. Dream career that’s still rolling along.
D-Mid: Shalrie Joseph (2002 – New England Revolution)
We’ve got to celebrate our legends. Shalrie is a legend and a bedrock piece for those incredible Revs teams. I often wonder what the legend might have had he moved to Celtic.
CM: Michael Bradley (2004 – New York/New Jersey MetroStars)
2004, zero appearances. 2005, 30 games and off to the Eredivisie as a teenager. The story is pretty incredible from there, both in a single-minded drive up the European soccer pyramid, into the spine of the US national team and, in MLS, his role in Toronto FC’s rise from shambles to best-ever.
RW: Jack Harrison (2016 – NYCFC)
LW: Brad Davis (2002 – New York/New Jersey MetroStars)
For more than a decade, that left foot was an attacking threat you could build around. I’m talking 15 years in the league, every single one impactful. Only Landon Donovan and Steve Ralston have more assists.
FWD: Clint Dempsey (2004 – New England Revolution)
I don’t need to tell you about Deuce. That story has been told.
FWD: Jozy Altidore (2006 – New York/New Jersey MetroStars)
Ditto, but Altidore was picked 17th overall. Sixteen teams passed. Makes you think.