The MLS SuperDraft 2021 presented by adidas is in the books, with expansion side Austin FC starting Thursday's proceedings by selecting Generation adidas and Virginia Tech midfielder Daniel Pereira with the No. 1 overall pick.
The move turned some heads, as Clemson midfielder Philip Mayaka was tabbed by many as the SuperDraft's top eligible player. But Pereira is an intriguing, high-upside prospect in his own right, establishing himself as a skilled box-to-box midfielder with some dynamic traits in the attack during his Hokies career.
During his two seasons at Virginia Tech, Pereira registered six goals and six assists in 26 games. He helped Virginia Tech finish the Fall 2020 college soccer season ranked No. 4 in the United Soccer Coaches poll, posting a 3-1-2 record.
FC Cincinnati followed Austin by selecting Wake Forest forward Calvin Harris at No. 2, with Mayaka then taken at No. 3 by the Colorado Rapids. Another Clemson product went at No. 4 when D.C. United took forward Kimarni Smith.
Austin keep building
Austin FC have spent the offseason piecing together MLS-proven players and promising internationals, and have now injected some youth into the club with Thursday's selections. Sporting director Claudio Reyna and his staff also had the No. 11 overall pick thanks to a trade with CF Montreal, which they used on University of Washington defender Freddy Kleeman. They rounded it off the with the No. 21 overall pick, which they acquired from the Rapids by taking Duke left back Aedan Stanley.
Time will tell how much the first-rounders play this season, but it's a historic day for Austin as their much-anticipated expansion season draws closer. Naturally, there's some hype behind Pereira going No. 1 as well.
Rapids make a splash
Colorado weren't initially in the top-five picks, yet moved up to No. 3 in a pre-draft trade with Houston Dynamo FC and selected Mayaka. The Clemson product was a 2019 MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist, a second-team All-American and his college coach Mike Noonan called him "the most MLS-ready player I have coached since being at Clemson."
The Rapids will hope that holds true and Mayaka is indeed ready to compete for first-team minutes right away. He projects as a No. 6, though can slot into a few different positions and has a fascinating back-story chronicled here by MLSsoccer.com's Charles Boehm that is well worth a read.
D.C. go back-to-back
It was an active first round for D.C. United as they continue to shore up their roster for 2021 under newly-hired head coach Hernan Losada. They used the No. 4 and No. 5 picks to make additions on both sides of the ball, with Smith one of the most accomplished goal-scorers in the draft and DeShields a physically-imposing defender.
Smith put up 25 goals and 11 assists during his Clemson career, while DeShields anchored a Wake Forest defense that maintained a 0.72 goals-against average and was named to the All-South Region Second-Team. Shields, a Baltimore native, has some local roots with the Black-and-Red.
Atlanta land highly-rated CB
University of New Hampshire center back Josh Bauer was rated by some as the most pro-ready defender in the draft, so it was a bit of a surprise to not see his name called until the second round.
Atlanta United eventually swooped in and took Bauer with the 31st overall pick that they acquired from D.C. United, which they'll hope can deliver value as one of the steals of this year's draft. Bauer, a two-time All-American, was rated as a Top 10 prospect available for selection by MLSsoccer.com contributor Travis Clark and was the back-to-back America East Defender of the Year in 2018 and 2019.
An active 1st round for Orlando City
Orlando City SC boast a pair of the biggest SuperDraft hits in the last couple of seasons between Chris Mueller and Daryl Dike, and the Lions will hope that an active first round of this year's draft will result in some of the same magic. Orlando got it started at pick No. 8 with the selection of Georgetown forward Derek Dodson, who they moved up to take via a trade with the Portland Timbers. Dodson put up some huge numbers for the Hoyas, racking up 30 goals and 11 assists in 65 career games. Orlando would take two more players off the board before the first round was over, moving to the other side of the ball to take a pair of defenders in Rio Hope-Gund (another Georgetown product) and Penn State's Brandon Hackenberg.
For all the picks, check out MLSsoccer.com's Draft Tracker.