Mock drafts abound throughout the soccer world, but most have one of two players tabbed as this year's No. 1 pick: Darlington Nagbe and Perry Kitchen.
MLSsoccer.com's very own Simon Borg and Jason Saghini are no different, except they went separate ways in predicting their top pick [READ: MLSsoccer.com's mock draft]. Here, the editors present their arguments for why the Vancouver Whitecaps should select their guy first.
SIMON BORG: Perry Kitchen
For the Vancouver Whitecaps to pass up the opportunity to take Perry Kitchen would be to miss out on the once-in-a-generation player that the SuperDraft is gift-wrapping for MLS teams this year.
But you need to have a feel for the game to understand Kitchen’s value because it’s not measured by goals and assists. He has the ability to help shape the culture of an expansion club with a natural penchant for leadership.
Ask any MLS coach and they are awed by the fact that the 18-year-old is the captain of the USA Under-20s. He singlehandedly pulled a star-studded Akron side out of the depths to revive their College Cup hopes when they were hanging in the balance vs. Michigan.
Only the trained eye will catch the nuances in Kitchen’s game. In two matches for the US U-20s earlier this week, he won countless balls, read the game well, was always well-positioned, organized players around him, his tackling was clean, and he was never overzealous or out of control on his challenges. And Kitchen did it at both center back and holding midfield. There’s a reason Belgium’s Anderlecht were chasing him.
Roy Keane was the leader of Manchester United for over a decade and willed his team to title after title. He may not have been the best player on the Red Devils, but he was the most important. Say hello to America’s version of Keane, the No. 1 pick in Thursday’s SuperDraft: Perry Kitchen.
JASON SAGHINI: Darlington Nagbe
It’s clear that Darlington Nagbe and Perry Kitchen are the top two players in this year’s draft and should be off the board by the time D.C. United are on the clock at No. 3. The question is who should be picked by Vancouver at No. 1.
If Vancouver were to select Kitchen at No. 1, I still think the Whitecaps would need to take central midfield/defensive talent at No. 8. This would ensure that Kitchen could be brought along slowly, possibly starting out as a right back until he’s fully up to speed on the professional game.
On the other hand, with Nagbe going first, the Whitecaps can still get a player with some similar qualities to Kitchen at No. 8. Bobby Warshaw is a talented player with a fantastic work ethic, and unlike Kitchen, he can step in and play centrally in the midfield or defense right away.
For me, leaving Baltimore with Nagbe and Warshaw would make Vancouver's draft a resounding success no matter what they chose to do with their other picks.
The impact Nagbe can have on the offensive end from day one far outweighs the potential that Perry Kitchen is expected to reach in the coming years. We’ve seen few players on the offensive side of the ball make a significant impact in year one for MLS teams. Take a look at the last three years and you’ll notice only four impactful offensive players coming from the draft pool:
2010 – Mwanga (No. 1) and Bunbury (No. 4)
2009 – Zakuani (No. 1) and Pontius (No. 7)
2008 – None
Two of the four were selected with the first overall pick. Nagbe is a similarly impactful player, and I don’t doubt that he will be the first one off the board on Thursday as well.