The MLS is certainly unique among major U.S. sports – it is the only draft in which a team passes on a player because he needs to establish residency. But such is the reason why MLS fans love the MLS – it is unique in both the world of soccer and the American sports world. And the draft is another unique aspect; it is an event dedicated to the selection of what are essentially late blooming players who went to college, an oddity in Europe but an essential part of the American soccer landscape.
For those expecting a boring draft, they were shocked when Vancouver took Omar Salgado with the first pick. Salgado is a great talent with huge potential, but it looks like he will not be able to contribute for a couple of years at least. He won’t even get the chance to play for Vancouver for a few months until he turns 18, but Vancouver decided to roll the dice anyway. This is a curious strategy for an expansion team, but it looks like Vancouver is looking more towards 2013 than 2011, not a terrible strategy.
After the Salgado shock, the draft began to shake out as many people expected. Portland took Akron’s Darlington Nagbe number two, where he was expected to fall after he told Vancouver he wanted to play in the United States to establish residency. D.C. United were the big beneficiaries of the Salgado pick as they nabbed Perry Kitchen, jolting forward their defensive rebuilding project by a year or two. New Chivas coach Robin Fraser made his mark by grabbing defender Zerek Valentin and filling a need for the team. By the time the first round was done, five Akron players went in the top eight picks, prompting some on Twitter to joke about Columbus relocating to Akron and not singing any players over 22.
The best part of any draft is the surprise picks, and the top ten had a few of them. Philadelphia grabbed University of Maryland keeper Zac MacMath at #5; while no one can deny his talent fans wondered why they needed a keeper when the Union had just signed Columbian international Faryd Mondragon. The Akron name seduced Vancouver into taking midfielder Michael Nanchoff with the eighth pick, even though more highly rated players like Will Bruin and Corey Hertzog were on the board.
You can see the entire draft here.