It’s tough to make an impact as a rookie in MLS.
With the influx of Targeted Allocation Money, young players have found minutes even harder to come by. Talking to decision-makers in Orlando, most don’t expect an immediate contribution from their 2019 MLS SuperDraft selections, either. They see the draft as a long-term play.
But every year a couple rookies step up: Tesho Akindele, Julian Gressel, Cristian Roldan, Chris Mueller. It takes the right mix of fit, guts and luck. Here are the three player available in Friday’s MLS SuperDraft most likely to contribute in 2019.
Amaya might be the most talented player on the ball in the draft, but it’s not his skill that’s causing the buzz. His big contribution to an MLS team might not even come on the field. The former UCLA Bruin seems likely to join the US Under-20 men’s national team at the U-20 World Cup in Poland. That would be a huge stage for the UCLA product. A good tournament would be seen by teams around the world. Market values can skyrocket in big events. Josh Sargent used the 2017 U-20 World Cup as his launching pad. A team could flip a [free!] draft pick into a multi-million dollar sale within 12 months. I hate to think of players as assets, but sometimes that’s how it works.
Similar options: None.
I’m playing the numbers on this one. Outside back is a position of need for a lot of teams. It’s also a spot where cheap, domestic players tend to get a chance. Brandon Bye, an outside back selected 8th overall selection in the 2018 SuperDraft by the New England Revolution, played the second most games of all the players drafted last year. Ward (pictured above) can similarly play on both the left and right, and some view the Creighton product as the top fullback in the draft.
DeJuan Jones at the MLS Combine. | Andy Mead
Sometimes the best thing you can do as a rookie is find your niche in a team and milk the hell out of it. Most players drafted will not step into the starting lineup, so they need to find a way to add something new or unique. Jones has that. He’s fast...really, really fast. And soccer fast, as he’s comfortable taking passes in stride. What does a team want late in a game when the match opens up? Speed. Think Dom Oduro. He’s on his 8th MLS team because everyone’s happy to take a player with his game-changing attribute. And Jones demonstrated in the combine that he has the off-the-ball movement to make his speed useful. I don’t think anyone in the draft sees Jones as a starter, but some should see him as a potential tool off the bench.