SuperDraft_Thumb_draft grades

The 2023 MLS SuperDraft presented by adidas was more about adding on the margins rather than core roster builds.

Trades were the dominant theme of Wednesday’s action, as 12 of the 13 first picks exchanged teams at one point or another. All of the Generation adidas class (11 players) went in Round 1 as well.

Let’s dish out a quickfire grade for each team’s selections.

  • Round 2: Tyler Young (No. 36) - M, Campbell

Atlanta leveraged their first and third-round picks for allocation money, which is never a bad move and fits their roster-building strategy. Young is a solid, athletic forward with some upside that should be in contention to feature for Atlanta United 2.

  • Round 1: CJ Fodrey (No. 13) - M, San Diego State | Generation adidas
  • Round 1: Valentin Noel (No. 20) - M, Pittsburgh
  • Round 2: Jackson Walti (No. 56) - M, Pittsburgh
  • Round 3: Salvatore Mazzaferro (No. 72) - D, South Florida

When Austin traded for the No. 13 pick with Houston, Fodrey seemed like the immediate target. A big, left-footed winger that could thrive in a 4-3-3, he also brings younger talent to Austin's roster as they get their academy pathway sorted. Noel is a good roll of the dice after a stellar career at Pitt, while Walti and Mazzaferro are both comfortable on the ball.

  • Round 1: Hamady Diop (No. 1) - D, Clemson | Generation adidas
  • Round 1: Patrick Agyemang (No. 12) - F, Rhode Island
  • Round 2: Nick Scardina (No. 40) - F, Washington
  • Round 3: Andrew Privett (No. 69) - M, Penn State

Charlotte traded up to get Diop, though the price to St. Louis was steep ($400,000 in GAM). There’s an argument to be made that the center back was the best defensive prospect in the pool. Charlotte also traded back into the first round to add Agyemang, who can play through the middle or out wide.

  • Round 3: Noah Egan (No. 64) - D, Vermont
  • Round 3: Billy Hency (No. ​​67) - M, Loyola
  • Round 3: Wilmer Cabrera Jr. (No. 76) - M, Butler

For a team that had no picks until the third round, the Fire landed a trio of interesting players. Though all are likely to end up with Chicago Fire II in MLS NEXT PRO, there’s at least good talent and pedigree to work with.

  • Round 1: Joey Akpunonu (No. 22) - D, Bowling Green | Generation adidas
  • Round 2: Hunter Morse (No. 51) - GK, Western Michigan
  • Round 3: London Aghedo (No. 80) - D, Air Force

It was always going to be a nervous wait for FC Cincinnati to see which center backs were available. Akpunonu was there and offers value as a GA pick, plus he’s surely well-known to the FCC coaching staff after playing in Ohio at Bowling Green. Morse was a fine addition at goalkeeper, and Aghedo could be a gem at center back.

  • Round 1: Moise Bombito (No. 3) - D, New Hampshire | Generation adidas
  • Round 2: Oliver Semmle (No. 41) - GK, Marshall

There’s no doubt Bombito has intrigue and quality, even with arguably more established options on the board. Semmle is a quality goalkeeper out of Marshall but an international, so he’ll likely add a veteran presence should he sign with Colorado Rapids 2 (MLS NEXT Pro).

  • Round 1: Maximilian Arfsten (No. 14) - F, San Jose Earthquakes II
  • Round 1: Xavier Zengue (No. 27) - D, Dayton
  • Round 2: Clay Holstad (No. 43) - M, Kentucky

The Crew went in a different direction by snagging Arfsten from San Jose’s MLS NEXT Pro squad. Arfsten had 8g/7a in the fall 2021 season in college at UC Davis, then 9g/6a for Earthquakes II. Columbus jumped back in to grab Zengue, an athletic center back that could surprise.

  • Round 1: Herbert Endeley (No. 24) - F, Indiana
  • Round 2: Ryan Wittenbrink (No. 53) - M, Indiana
  • Round 3: Kameron Lacey (No. 82) - F, UNC Charlotte

Inactive until late in the first round, Endeley gives Dallas a winger that could potentially shift to an outside back role. He has the work rate and ability to follow in the footsteps of 2022 draftee Tsiki Ntsabeleng and earn a roster spot. Meanwhile, Wittenbrink is a chance-creation machine from out wide and Lacey can add danger in the final third.

  • Round 2: Ben Stitz (No. 31) - M, Penn
  • Round 3: Aidan Roch (No. 60) - M, Georgetown

D.C. kicked off their SuperDraft by trading the No. 2 pick to Orlando for an MLS-proven right back in Ruan, continuing their backline makeover. D.C. stayed local for their other two picks in Stitz and Rocha, very good college players who will look to make the jump to MLS.

  • Round 2: Isaiah Reid (No. 34) - D, Clemson
  • Round 3: Frantz Pierrot (No. 63) - F, UConn

Houston got $375,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM) from various trades, though there was plenty of talent available at No. 5. It’s about looking for sleepers in later spots, and Reid could fit that bill as a second-round pick.

  • Round 2: ​​Jassem Koleilat (No. 58) - GK, New Hampshire
  • Round 3: Noah Dollenmayer (No. 87) - D, Cal State San Bernardino

Over two years ago, the MLS Cup champions shipped out their first-round pick to Vancouver in exchange for an international roster spot. Taking a shot on one of many goalkeepers available (Koleilat) is tough to criticize. Then Dollenmayer is a curious case as a 6-foot-6 center back who played just three games this fall for Cal State San Bernardino. The SoCal native played in a summer league and in the Big West last fall, where he likely caught the eye of LAFC’s technical staff.

  • Round 1: Gino Vivi (No. 23) - F, Central Florida
  • Round 2: Russell Shealy (No. 52) - GK, Syracuse

Vivi, a Costa Rican winger, had a great season at Central Florida. While he’ll need to really impress to make the roster, it’s a good move as a roll of the dice. Shealy has a real chance to earn a roster spot as LA look to add goalkeepers.

  • Round 1: Cole Jensen (No. 18) - GK, Xavier
  • Round 2: Bachir Ndiaye (No. 47) - M, North Carolina

Building goalkeeper depth via the draft is always a smart move. Miami went with Jensen, who was generally seen as one of the best options among the seniors, even if he may not have an immediate impact like Cincy’s Roman Celentano.

  • Round 1: Ryen Jiba (No. 19) - D, Union Omaha
  • Round 2: Emmanuel Iwe (No. 48) - F, Minnesota United II

Jiba was perhaps the second-most surprising pick of the first round. The left back spent the past year at Union Omaha in USL League One and has a year of pro experience under his belt that most players in the draft don’t. Already drafting a player on your team’s MLS NEXT Pro roster makes sense; it denies opponents the chance to land a potential sleeper.

  • Round 2: Milo Garvanian (No. 54) - D, North Carolina
  • Round 3: Ousman Jabang (75) - D, Mercer
  • Round 3: Nick Christoffersen (83) - GK, Penn

Montréal’s day started with getting a new head coach in Hernan Losada and adding Aaron Herrera (while shipping their first-round pick as part of the deal that sent the right back to Quebec), then ended with several new players late in the draft. Garvanian has the quality and versatility to sneak onto the roster, while Christoffersen is a former Toronto FC Academy player who’s set to switch provinces.

  • Round 1: Joey Skinner (No. 11) - D, Clemson | Generation adidas
  • Round 2: Sean Suber (No. 35) - D, Charlotte
  • Round 2: Alex Meinhard (No. 49) - F, Tulsa
  • Round 3: Makel Rasheed (No. 65) - D, Xavier
  • Round 3: Rory O'Driscoll (No. 78) - M, New Hampshire
  • Round 3: Lyam MacKinnon (No. 84) - F, Villanova

With a glut of Generation adidas signings available, Nashville were always going to have a shot at boosting their cache of younger talent. They checked that box by grabbing Skinner, one of the few true left backs on the board. It will be an uphill battle for Nashville's other five picks to make the team, though perhaps O’Driscoll and MacKinnon could surprise.

  • Round 1: Joshua Bolma (No. 4) - M, Maryland | Generation adidas
  • Round 2: Victor Souza (No. 39) - D, Boston College
  • Round 3: Andreas Ueland (No. 68) - D, Virginia

Bolma is an electric talent on the flanks or centrally – the kind of player that's worth parting with a bit of allocation money to trade up and select. If the Revolution can unlock his consistency, it could work out very nicely. New England will know Souza extremely well from his time at Boston College, and reuniting Ueland with former Virginia teammate Henry Kessler was another shrewd move.

  • Round 1: Malcolm Johnston (No. 26) - M, Maryland
  • Round 2: Braudilio Rodrigues (No. 55) - F, Franklin Pierce
  • Round 3: Matthew Myers (No. 66) - F, Rutgers

Johnston, the younger brother of Canadian international (and recent Celtic FC transfer) Alistair Johnston, has every chance of making the roster. He’s versatile and could even feature in central midfield, a spot where NYCFC could certainly use some depth. His selection alone is worth the high grade.

  • Round 1: ​​Elian Haddock (No. 21) - GK, Yale
  • Round 2: Ethan Conley (No. 50) - D, North Carolina
  • Round 3: Amos Shapiro-Thompson (No. 79) - M, Boston College

The Red Bulls likely saw plenty of Haddock, a big goalkeeper from Yale. Shapiro-Thompson (Boston College) has a bit of the Red Bull style about him, as he buzzes around without the ball and works hard, but is equally capable of flipping a switch and making things happen in possession.

  • Round 1: Shakur Mohammed (No. 2) - F, Duke | Generation adidas
  • Round 1: Duncan McGuire (No. 6) - F, Creighton
  • Round 1: Abdi Salim (No. 17) - D, Syracuse
  • Round 2: Luis Grassow (No. 46) - D, Kentucky

There’s no guarantee collegiate attacking players will translate to MLS, but Orlando walked away with two of the best available in Mohammed and McGuire. Salim brought backline reinforcements to conclude Orlando’s first-round moves.

  • Round 1: Holden Trent (No. 28) - GK, High Point
  • Round 2: Stefan Stojanovic (No. 57) - F, Philadelphia Union II

Stop the presses: Philadelphia made a draft pick! Two in fact, though the second was for the college draft rights of Stojanovic. Drafting Trent in the first round secured one of the best senior goalkeepers available, though the Union already have three on their roster.

  • Round 1: Noel Caliskan (No. 15) - M, Loyola Marymount
  • Round 2: Ryan Bilichuk (No. 44) - GK, Elon
  • Round 3: Jaden Jones-Riley (No. 73) - D, Dayton
  • Round 3: Tyler Clegg (No. 85) - D, James Madison

Caliskan, Portland’s first-round pick, has been among the best collegiate center-mids over the past four years at Loyola Marymount. He’s a two-way, box-to-box midfielder that could evolve into a real asset with the Timbers. While Portland’s other picks are likely ticketed for T2, there was much to like, especially the third-round duo – Jones-Riley is a rapid right back, while Clegg is a solid center back.

  • Round 1: Ilijah Paul (No. 7) - F, Washington | Generation adidas
  • Round 1: ​​Bertin Jacquesson (No. 16) - F, Pittsburgh | Generation adidas
  • Round 1: Emeka Eneli (No. 25) - F, Cornell
  • Round 2: Amferny Sinclair (No. 45) - M, Syracuse
  • Round 3: Moses Mensah (No. 74) - D, Campbell

RSL beefed up their attacking options by snagging Paul and Jacquesson, tantalizing GA signings that could emerge into consistent contributors if the right opportunity comes their way. Eneli brings another option to the wide areas after a strong college career at Cornell. RSL did very well on the day, as both Sinclair and Mensah offer talent and upside, though slipped due to their international status.

  • Round 1: Daniel Munie (No. 10) - D, Indiana
  • Round 2: Liam Butts (No. 33) - F, Penn State
  • Round 3: Hunter George (No. 62) - M, Maryland

San Jose did well to trade down from No. 4, bag some allocation money and still get one of the top center backs in the draft pool (Munie). Later-round picks Butts and George showed upside at times and were savvy pick-ups for the Earthquakes’ new era.

  • Round 2: Eythor Bjorgolfsson (No. 38) - F, Kentucky
  • Round 3: Blake Bowen (No. 59) - D, San Diego State

Seattle picked up allocation money on their way out of the first round, but there were better options on the table when it came to adding Bjorgolfsson. Both he and Bowen are all but certain to start out with Tacoma Defiance in MLS NEXT Pro.

  • Round 1: Stephen Afrifa (No. 8) - F, Florida International
  • Round 2: Christopher Rindov (No. 37) - D, Maryland

The first club in the first round to make their natural pick, Afrifa is a natural fit to play in a front three. There’s every chance he can win a roster spot in preseason camp.

  • Round 1: Owen O'Malley (No. 9) - M, Creighton | Generation adidas
  • Round 2: John Klein (No. 30) - M, Saint Louis

St. Louis got $400,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM) to trade out of the top spot, then traded some of that away to select O’Malley. The Creighton winger fits a need out wide, makes sense as a depth addition and will press and harry while stretching opposing backlines. The expansion club then added a local standout (Klein), who can look to fill a similar role on the depth chart.

  • Round 2: Jalen Watson (No. 32) - D, Penn State
  • Round 3: Charlie Sharp (No. 61) - F, Western Michigan

TFC’s first-round pick (No. 3) ended up with Colorado via their trade for Mark-Anthony Kaye last summer, a perfectly reasonable use of a draft asset. Watson is a Vancouver Whitecaps Academy product that was solid and steady at Penn State, while Sharp excelled at Western Michigan. At the bare minimum, both are quality adds for Toronto FC II in MLS NEXT Pro.

  • Round 1: J.C. Ngando (No. 5) - M, UNC Greensboro | Generation adidas
  • Round 1: Levonte Johnson (No. 29) - F, Syracuse
  • Round 2: Daniel Nimick (No. 42) - D, Western Michigan
  • Round 3: Buster Sjoberg (No. 71) - D, Syracuse

An outlay of $225,000 GAM for J.C. Ngando is a bit of a risk. That’s not to say the Frenchman isn’t talented; it's whether or not he can be an effective attacker in MLS that remains a question. If Johnson can be consistent and efficient in front of goal, he could certainly make that impact in 2023.