Somebody’s life will change forever on Friday. Once a No. 1 pick, always a No. 1 pick. It’s the way people will introduce you for the rest of your life.
The title doesn’t carry the same weight in soccer as it does other sports, but it’s still a sacred accomplishment that every few individuals can claim.
FC Cincinnati hold the top selection in Friday’s MLS SuperDraft. It’s safe to say that they value the draft a lot after Wednesday. There seems to be two names left in the discussion for the top spot, but before we get into those two, let’s look at why we can rule out some other top contenders.
Callum Montgomery: Montgomery (above) is the consensus top center back available. But FCC already have four center backs on the roster. And they already have the “project center back” area filled with Hassan Ndam. More so, Montgomery could require a senior roster spot, as it may be unlikely that he would sign a reserve contract as the No. 1 overall pick, and FCC don’t have many senior spots left.
Andre Shinyashiki: The Denver product led the nation in scoring last season. The Brazilian would be a solid third striker, but the fact that he would occupy an international roster spot hurts his value.
Siad Haji: Haji would rank the highest in a cumulative “Pro-Ready” and “Highest Upside” score. But the problem is that teams care about nailing one rather than getting both. FCC will draft on either “Help us win now” or “Project with the high potential.” While Haji would be second or third in both categories, he’s not first in either. Frankie Amaya is probably a more pro-ready attacker, while Tajon Buchanan has the higher upside. Someone will be really happy when Haji falls to them, but I’d be surprised if FCC takes him.
Dayne St. Clair: FCC need a third goalkeeper and St. Clair’s Generation adidas status would keep him off the books for a couple years while he learns the ropes as a pro. But it feels like FCC want to make a splash with their top pick. I can’t imagine taking a reserve goalkeeper checks that box for them.
JJ Williams: I’m listing Williams last, because I can talk myself into why FCC might take the Hermann Trophy finalist. Williams has all physical tools that don’t come along often in a striker, and thus a huge upside, but the sense I get is that Cincinnati hope to get someone who might contribute this season.
The final two…
Tajon Buchanan appears to have the most predictable high upside in the draft. To put that into mathematical terms, he has the highest sum of *likelihood he lives up to potential* x *overall potential*. It’s unclear whether that potential amounts to “All-Star” or “multi-million dollar sale to Europe,” but I suspect FCC would be happy with either. Additionally, Buchanan might even be able to help the team in 2019. His pace and 1v1 ability provide a niche that should help him get minutes off the bench.
I listed six other names to say this — I’d be shocked if Cincinnati don’t take Frankie Amaya. At the most basic level, Amaya would be able to fight for minutes right away. He wouldn’t be a piece that takes them to the next level, but if a major point of the draft is to get players to help your team, Amaya could help their team in 2019 more than anyone else available. And he’s only 18, so he’s far from finished product.
But there’s also a second element, and it’s the unspoken part of the draft. The moment players turn professional, they change from amateurs to assets. Amaya is the most valuable asset in the draft. He will probably make the US Under-20 roster for the World Cup in Poland this summer. Big tournaments = potential big paydays. On top of that, he’s eligible for domestic status in Liga MX, whose teams tend not to be shy when spending money. MLS has a growing list of players who have moved to Liga MX: Yoshi Yotun, Camilo, Omar Gonzalez, Carlos Salcedo, Rafael Baca just to name a few.
Amaya isn’t a guaranteed success, but it feels like a more obvious choice than we’ve seen in recent years.