The odds are stacked high against the 35 young men who heard their names called today in rounds three and four of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft. Hell, even second-round picks rarely break through these days as MLS teams have become more adept and aggressive at building from within via the Homegrown player mechanism, or scouting and signing players from overseas via GAM, TAM, DP slots et al.
There just isn't as much of a need to fill roster gaps via the draft as there used to be.
But that doesn't mean there's no chance these guys break through. Jack Elliott, picked 77th overall (4th round) in 2017, proves as much. The Union center back played in 30 games as a rookie, starting in 29 of them and finishing third in Rookie of the Year balloting. At no point was he a "can't miss" talent, but he certainly turned out to be a "didn't miss" talent.
It's unlikely anybody taken late in this draft turns into an instant contributor of Elliott's stature. But here are five guys to keep an eye on in the coming years:
Ken Krolicki, Montreal Impact (CM)
Krolicki was the victim of a bad Combine, which dropped his stock way more than it should've. He is an energetic, very fit and very smart two-way central midfielder who doesn't mind doing the dirty work and is willing to get on the ball in tough spots. He never makes magic with it – he's not that guy – but he plays brave and committed. I could also see him being useful out wide, as either a wingback or a fullback.
Everyone thought he was a top 20 player:
He'll have a chance to win a roster slot in Montreal. Once you've done that, you've given yourself a chance to win playing time as well.
Brian Iloski, Colorado Rapids (CM)
Iloski is a product of the Galaxy academy, but LA elected not to sign him after five injury-plagued and ultimately unfulfilling years at UCLA. He was originally known as a trick-foot artist, but what catches the eye about him now isn't the 1v1 stuff, but rather his passing vision. He dimed this one:
Do you have a good first touch? Yes. Can you pass the ball? Yes. Do you have the requisite athleticism – balance, agility, a little bit of speed? Yes.
Then you can play soccer. Passing is the most fundamental skill in our sport, and Iloski can do it in spots that matter. If he ends up playing as sort of a free No. 8 for the right team, he will have a nice career for somebody.
Matt Danilack, Philadelphia Union (CB)
Meet the next Aaron Long. Danilack, like Long, was a big, strong, athletic and pretty skilled two-way central midfielder in college. In order to make it in MLS, he's going to have to transition into a center back over the next couple of years. He has the raw materials in terms of size, athleticism and approach to the game to make it work, and "can pass the ball well as a college midfielder" usually translates to "can pass the ball well enough as a professional center back."
Philly even have the same sort of pathway the Red Bulls used in developing long – i.e. they can give him a couple of years to grow into the role in the USL. Long was the USL Defender of the Year in 2016, then became a starter in MLS in 2017. Danilack could, in theory, follow the same path over the next few seasons with Bethlehem Steel.
Mamadou Guirassy, Portland Timbers (F)
I had Guirassy going in the first round of my final mock draft because of the mistaken information that he had American citizenship (he does not). If he was domestic he'd have gone that high, but it's hard for teams to justify taking a flier on an international attacker from a small school when they have the cash to go out and import more proven talent from overseas.
Still, Guirassy was wonderful. He did all the grunt work you'd want out of a No. 9, was relentless in his pressing, made good runs in possession, checks all the physical boxes you want, and scored a great header on a fundamentally sound near-post run:
The France-born Guirassy has international experience, having represented Guinea at the 2016 Toulon Tournament (a U-21 competition), and scoring a goal against a Paraguay team that featured, among others, new Orlando City DP Josue Colman. So he's played and produced on big stages against good players.
I don't think he'll win a roster slot with the Timbers right away, but it would not shock me in the slightest if he became the star of T2 in the USL and then carved a path up into MLS.
Worth noting he'll be competing with another late-round draft pick, center forward Tim Mueller of Oregon State (who never developed across his four years in Corvallis as I thought he would).
Cory Brown, Vancouver Whitecaps (LCB)
Brown's a little bit undersized to play as a pure center back in a flat four, but with Vancouver switching to a 3-5-2 this season (planning to, anyway), he has a chance to slot in as a left center back who can act as sort of a specialist. Brown doesn't give the ball away, is good at defending in space, and just keeps the game simple. It's a slightly different skillset in that back three, and it fits him.
Like Guirassy he's an international, which makes it tough for him to win a roster slot. But he's played at a high level, repping New Zealand at the U-17 and U-20 levels and was part of a team that made it to the knockout round of the 2015 U-20 World Cup.