One thing I like about the MLS Superdraft is that it is the type of draft where a first round player can make an almost immediate impact. Some sports try to hype their drafts, but at the end of the day the draftees will languish in the minors for a few years hoping to eventually make the big leagues. The most exciting prospect of the 2010 MLB draft will probably take two years to reach the majors in the most optimistic scenarios. Contrast this with MLS – the top five players in last year’s draft are already contributors for their clubs.
This year’s draft, however, could be a special one. The number of MLS-ready prospects are high, due to a number of factors. First, very strong college programs like Akron and Maryland have prepared some of the best prospects for the top level so they can contribute right away. Also, the Generation adidas class is up to ten players, all of whom are legitimate first-round picks. Combine these two facts and you have a deep pool of players for teams to pick from, and some of the lower seeded teams are guaranteed to get immediate help this year.
To help readers follow the draft next week, here are ten players (in alphabetical order) who could be immediate contributors to their MLS team, with a brief bio and description of each. Share in the comments section below: who do you think are the best of the bunch, who did I forget, and which of them do you think your favorite club needs?
Anthony Ampaipitakwong (M, University of Akron)
If your team is looking for leadership, maturity, and a strong passing midfielder, the Akron captain is your draft choice. He is a former U.S. Under-17 player known for his maturity and passing ability. And being captain for the College Cup-winning Zips should count for something.
Will Bruin (F, Indiana University/Generation adidas)
Bruin is simply a player who can find the net, scoring 33 goals in 66 career collegiate games. Known as a finisher and a leader, he is a finalist for the Hermann Trophy despite being on a mediocre collegiate team. A team looking for offense would do well to seriously think about drafting him.
Corey Hertzog (F, Penn State University/Generation adidas)
If Hertzog falls past Philadelphia at #5, I would be surprised. The Union tried to sign him as a home-grown player, and his numbers bear out why: he was the NCAA leader with 20 goals this year and is known as a “finisher”. If the Union pass on him, some team is going to get a player who will help their offense.
Perry Kitchen (D, University of Akron/Generation adidas)
Kitchen is only 18, but is one of the most MLS-ready players in the NCAA. His back line allowed only 16 goals in 25 games, and he can conceivably play three positions. Plus he has shown a knack for opportunistic goals: consider his six goals in 2010, 40% shooting percentage, and game-tying goal in the NCAA semi-finals against Michigan. One of the expansion teams will take him next week.
Zach MacMath (GK, University of Maryland/Generation adidas)
MacMath could fall out of the top ten in the draft, but it wouldn’t be due to talent so much as teams drafting for need. He is by far the best keeper in the draft and a starter for the U.S. U-20 team, as well as the starter for a very good collegiate program.
Steven McCarthy (M, University of North Carolina)
McCarthy may not be getting the hype of others on this list, but he is the type of player who could go mid-draft and contribute immediately. He’s tall (6’4″) so he can contribute on set pieces. He is a good passing midfielder, something all teams can always use. And he is a senior who played for a nationally recognized program. Look for him to contribute immediately to whoever takes him.
Darlington Nagbe (F, University of Akron/Generation adidas)
Nagbe has maybe the best name and most talent in this draft. The favorite to win the Hermann Cup this week, he has experience at the highest collegiate level (two NCAA championship games) and can score (seven goals and thirteen assists in 25 games this year). Caleb Porter (who knows something about talented players) calls him hands down the best collegiate player in the country, and he has been compared to fellow Zips Steve Zakuani and Teal Bunbury. He will not last past the top 3.
Omar Salgado (F, Generation adidas/U-20)
Salgado is young and immensely talented. The Mexican-American forward began his career playing in Mexico but left the system last year to pursue a U.S. career. He is a fixture in the U.S. youth system and was a member of the 2010 Milk Cup-winning squad. He is only 17 but has a ton of upside; if you can be patient for a few years and your team develops him properly, he will be a special player.
Kofi Sarkodie (D, University of Akron/Generation adidas)
If you wondered if Akron was as good as the hype the past few years, this list of players should put any doubts to rest. Sarkodie is the team’s 19 year old starting right back who has a penchant for scoring (especially critical goals, like the College Cup semi-final game winner) but plays a solid back line as well. Think of him as a Bacary Sagna type; someone who is known for their defense but is great offensive support.
A. J. Soares (D, University of California)
A defender without the huge growth potential or flexibility of a Kitchen, Soares is the type of seasoned college player who could go mid-draft and immediately shore up a team’s defense. He is definitely one of the best defenders in the draft, and tall as well (6’2″). Ives Galarcep has compared him to Tim Ream, making him a great pick for a team in need of a good center back.