The MLS Superdraft yesterday provided more drama and perhaps more impact players than recent drafts. Some past MLS drafts have been very deep: 1998, 1999 and 2003 come to mind. Some however have been bordering on worthless for drama and impact players.
The decision of Hermann Trophy winner Marcus Tracey of Wake Forest to sign in Europe put a bit of a damper on the day, but still plenty of quality players were available after one of the best seasons of college soccer in recent memory. The 2008 NCAA campaign maybe remembered as the season college soccer finally opened up: a criticism of American college soccer is the defensive tactical mindset of many managers and the generally physical play which impedes scoring and the development of attacking talent.
Sadly many casual fans of the game only watch the College Cup, and in the semifinal matchup North Carolina packed the back to try and stop high flying Wake Forest. The Tar Heels were successful: a victory for UNC but a defeat for the game. Maryland the eventual NCAA Champions however showed a tactical savvy and a technical flair which speaks highly of the evolution of the college game.
Seattle with the first pick set the tone for the day by picking an attacker: Akron’s Steve Zakuani. Zakuani will not count against the cap as a Generation Adidas player. I loved TFC’s first round getting Sam Cronin, who I considered to be the best player left in the draft after his Wake Forest team mate Marcus Tracey signed in Europe. TFC also drafted injury plagued O’Brien White who I think can make an instant impact if he’s healthy. Stefan Frei surprisingly fell to TFC, but honestly the Cal Goalkeeper had a huge disadvantage: MLS right now has more solid keepers than any period since the great keeper boom in the league from 1998 to 2000, when every team not only had a solid starter but a capable backup between the pipes.
I loved New England’s pick of Kevin Alston. If Steve Nicol transitions to a four man backline this season, Alston could start. New York’s pick of Jeremy Hall was solid but I believe DC United really reached in its pick of Chris Pontius who as an attacker just isn’t in the same class as the three forwards picked ahead of him in the draft. Rodney Wallace however, a hometown pick from the national champion Maryland Terps should be solid.
Real Salt Lake supposedly reached for Jean Alexandre with the 12th pick of Round One. Let me outline why I believe Alexander may in fact be a steal at that pick. Alexander has already played in World Cup qualifying for his native Haiti. Alexander has also turned into a big scorer with his youth team and college legend down here in south Florida. Part of the reason he didn’t go to a big name school like Wake Forest or Maryland was because he’s a Haitian immigrant who was reduced to local options: Lynn University was his best bet. I expected him to be picked and to have a positive impact somewhere. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be in the first round, but I am happy for him that it was.
I’ve also seen Ryan Maxwell play a few times in the PDL with the Bradenton Academics. He went to school at the University of Tampa and should be a solid role player for Steve Nicol in New England. I also liked the Revs getting Andrei Gotsmanov late in the second round. DC United got a steal with Wake Forest’s Lyle Adams also late in the second round. United defense has been porous and with the intensity Adams showed in college, he could hardly do worse than what the red and black has had the past few seasons.
Yohance Marshall from South Florida going undrafted was a bit of a shock to me. But otherwise the draft went pretty much according to script with a few slight deviations. This draft should serve to enhance the quality of MLS beyond its current level and continue to show the increasing depth and quality of NCAA Soccer for the skeptics to see.