Before we get to my five burning questions this week, a little housekeeping. Go ahead and get your second work monitor, cell phone or __ solution set up now so you don’t miss a second of the 2019 MLS SuperDraft on Friday. We’ll be streaming all four hours of the first and second Rounds on MLS channels (MLSsoccer.com, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter).
If that sounds like a long time, that’s because it is. While we run through picks 1-48, a crack squad will get you up to date on everything happening in MLS. That crack squad consists of Taylor Twellman, Bobby Warshaw, David Gass and myself at the MLS studio in New York City and Calen Carr, Susannah Collins and Sam Stejskal from the draft floor in Chicago.
There will be trades, there will be a can’t-miss speech or two and there will be a revolving door of MLS head coaches and executives to explain what’s going down on the draft floor in real time. Tune in for the whole thing, or just drop by when you’ve got 10 minutes free.
Before we get to my questions, here’s who the latest SuperDraft mocks have going No. 1. Don’t be surprised if the pick changes hands. May the trades come thick and fast on Friday!
- Matt Doyle (MLSsoccer.com): Winger/FWD Tajon Buchanan (Syracuse)
- Travis Clark (Top Drawer Soccer): ATT MID Siad Haji (VCU)
- Ives Galarcep (Goal): ATT MID Frankie Amaya (UCLA)
What’s the deal with that MLS-y trades between FC Cincinnati and LAFC/Philly?
[inputs trade details into the MLS Trade Translator, v1.0]
- LAFC get 2019 4th Rd pick (No. 73), FCC Allocation Ranking in 2020
- FCC get 2019 1st Rd pick (No. 16), $175,000 GAM
If FCC allocation is Top 5, moves to 2021
“Huh. Something is missing here,” was the right response to this trade. MLSsoccer.com bird dog Sam Stejskal to the rescue.
Long story short, LAFC paid six figures in GAM to avoid losing, for example, Steven Beitashour. It seems like a fair valuation for both sides. Cincinnati, meanwhile, created assets via the Expansion Draft without having to use a pick, and got the No. 16 pick and GAM for, in their view, just a fourth-round pick.
As for the Allocation Order spot, LAFC are speculating. Expansion teams are often bad. Maybe Cincinnati will be close to or bottom of the league. If not in 2019, when a spot in the top five is protected, maybe in 2020. Low risk, possibly a nice reward for LAFC, a club willing to spend if the right player is available via the Allocation Order.
[resets MLS Trade Translator, v1.0]
- PHI get $150,000 in 2019 General Allocation Money; $50,000 in conditional 2020 General Allocation Money
- FCC get all of the Union’s 2019 SuperDraft picks — No. 13, No. 29, No. 37, No. 61, No. 85
New Union sporting director Ernst Tanner explained the Union side this way: “When evaluating how we want to build our roster for the 2019 season and beyond, we decided that acquiring this money is the best use of our SuperDraft resources.”
The Union have an academy. They’ve got a USL team. They figure the money will help them more than whoever they pick up in the SuperDraft. Recent returns suggest they might be right.
From where I’m sitting, it feels like Cincinnati overpaid and reached a little bit. Teams frequently pass in the third and fourth rounds, so those picks have very little value. Last year, the No. 10 pick (Generation adidas midfielder Mo Adams) went for $85,000 GAM, and FCC paid almost double for a pick three slots later and two second-round picks (aka wildcards).
I get that the money came via LAFC. I get that the new boys don’t have an academy and want to stock roster spots 25-30. I get that more picks theoretically means more chances to get a couple right. I get that they could see how those picks fare in USL and go from there. I get that they could flip some of those picks and recoup some or all of their outlay. I wonder what role players taken will fill given the club already has a second XI of USL signees.
We’ll get the answer to those questions on Friday, during the preseason and on roster compliance day.
What’s going on with the Fire?
Indiana left back Andrew Gutman won the MAC Hermann Trophy. By that measure, he was the best player in college soccer. Gutman is a Chicago Fire academy product. The Fire need a left back after Brandon Vincent, a top-five SuperDraft pick three years ago, retired this offseason.
Gutman will not sign with the Chicago Fire, as reported by The Athletic’s Paul Tenorio Thursday morning.
This one is a head-scratcher for Fire supporters.
I don’t get it either. Even if Chicago didn’t rate Gutman, why not flip him within the league, a la Cam Lindley to Orlando in 2018? Maybe they tried. Word is Rodriguez upped his offer, but Celtic won out in the end. The end result? A Homegrown MAC Hermann winner walks for free.
Now, Gutman alone isn’t going to tank their offseason, but one look at the roster makes it clear that they need bodies, among them some bona fide starters. Rodriguez is going to be under even more pressure if the three players he is "deep in negotiations" with don’t come to fruition, especially after the Chicago GM took responsibility for the club’s recruitment issues on ExtraTime Radio.
Rodriguez says he is chasing a No. 10 (heard that before) and a center back, at the very least. That backline looks awful thin even with the signing of Marcelo from Sporting CP. Goalkeeper is another question mark. So is right wing. They can’t stand pat and hope to compete in this Eastern Conference.
One last thing, pay close attention to the Fire draft table on Friday. They’ve been very very active at SuperDraft the past three years. Here are some highlights:
- Traded No. 1 pick Jack Harrison for Brandon Vincent, allocation money
- Traded Joevin Jones to Seattle
- Traded No. 3 pick Jonathan Lewis to NYCFC
- Traded into Top 5 for Jon Bakero
- Traded David Accam to Philadelphia
Will an impact player come from the 2019 MLS SuperDraft?
Probably not. That’s just the reality of this era of MLS, with TAM aplenty and academies starting to pay dividends.
Most folks in the know look at this draft class and see a couple players who’ll see spot starts and substitute appearances in Year 1, a whole bunch of projects and then a bunch of players destined for USL Championship rosters. Here’s how the 2018 first round looks a year later…
- Only Chris Mueller (ORL) and Brandon Bye (NE) played more than 1,000 minutes
- Nine players didn’t see the field at all
- Multiple players released mid-year or at the end of the season
- No. 1 pick Joao Moutinho traded by LAFC at end of season
The second round had little to no MLS impact, and the third and fourth rounds produced two players whose names you might recognize: Luis Argudo (CLB) and Niki Jackson (COL). One team that did make use of the later rounds? The Chicago Fire. They picked Diego Campos in the second round and Elliot Collier in the third. Those two combined for about 2,000 minutes. But that's probably more a product of the Fire's ineffective offseason heading into 2018.
I’ll admit that 2017 tracks much better from an MLS impact perspective — Abu Danladi, Jonathan Lewis, Jeremy Ebobisse, Lalas Abubakar and Julian Gressel, among others — but that draft had more buzz and more MLS-ready prospects than this one. Keep an eye on Frankie Amaya, who has U-20 chops and long-term potential.
One last note for you, 2002 was last time first pick was not Generation adidas, so keep that in mind as MLS Commissioner Don Garber strides to the podium on Friday.
Also, this interview with Sporting KC's Peter Vermes on ExtraTime Radio is worth a listen.
With the schedule officially out, what match am I most looking forward to in 2019?
Three words: Hell is real.
That sign, which you see on the drive from Columbus to Cincinnati, is the inspiration for the name of the rivalry between the clubs, a moniker both have embraced, and rightfully so. It’s awesome, and I expect the games and environments to live up to that billing. It’s organic and chosen by the supporters. Chisel it in stone.
For both, 2019 promises to be a historic campaign, which up the stakes even more.
Salvation came to Columbus, and they celebrated heartily on Wednesday as Tim Bezbatchenko and Caleb Porter were introduced as the club’s first president and head coach under the new ownership group led by the Haslam and Edwards families. The club has a future again, and that future is extremely bright. You can listen to both outline their visions on Thursday’s ExtraTime Radio.
FC Cincinnati, meanwhile, are preparing for Year 1 in MLS. They’re undefeated against their in-state rivals thanks to a 2017 U.S. Open Cup victory at Nippert Stadium. They’ve got an established fan culture, a new stadium on the way and a chip on their shoulder. They might need a pick-me-up in August, and the rivalry could provide that.
The drive is less than two hours. Those are gonna be some incredible away days.
What’s the coolest thing you saw on MLS Twitter this week?
Shout out to Reddit and user earfmanson for this one. It’s a map of the distance between MLS clubs plotted over Europe. Good perspective for all of us when we talk about travel.