MLS SuperDraft offers Canadian talent but remains crapshoot
Whitecaps, Impact, Toronto select 7th, 19th, 21st overall on Friday
Barring trades, the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC will pay for last season's playoff success by waiting their turn at Friday's MLS SuperDraft. The Vancouver Whitecaps, selecting seventh, will be pressed into action much sooner.
How useful their picks turn out to be is anyone's guess. But Canadian talent may well figure Friday, given new league initiatives making young players from north of the border more accessible to U.S. teams.
Like most leagues, the MLS draft is a crapshoot. And with teams looking to bring their homegrown players in the fold, some talent never even makes it to the draft.
I'm not sure this draft is as good as last year but I think there's some quality in it for sure.— Toronto FC general manager Tim Bezbatchenko
Toronto general manager Tim Bezbatchenko, who scored with ninth-overall pick Tsubasa Endoh in 2016, believes last year's draft was one of the best in the last five or six years.
"I'm not sure this draft is as good as last year but I think there's some quality in it for sure," Bezbatchenko said.
Picking 21st, he may only see it from a distance.
Minnesota United FC holds the first pick with fellow expansion side Atlanta United FC selecting second. Chicago is third, followed by Houston, Columbus and San Jose before Vancouver gets into the action. Montreal goes 19th.
The first two rounds go Friday with the third and fourth taking place Tuesday via conference call.
The Generation Adidas class — top underclassmen whose salaries won't count against team salary caps — is a useful guide to the marquee talent on hand.
This year's group features forwards Abu Danladi (UCLA) and Jonathan Lewis (Akron), midfielder Jackson Yueill (UCLA), defender Miles Robinson (Syracuse) and Canadian midfielder Shamit Shome (FC Edmonton) and 17-year-old midfielder-forward Adonijah Reid (ANB Futbol Academy).
Highly touted forward Jeremy Ebobisse (Duke, Charleston Battery) has signed a contract with MLS, as has Canadian forward Brian Wright (Vermont). Midfielder Kwame Awuah (Connecticut) and forward Chris Nanco (Syracuse) joined the other Canadians at the pre-draft MLS Combine.
The Whitecaps are looking to revamp their roster outside the draft as well. Designated players Pedro Morales and striker Octavio Rivero have moved on, meaning there are some big-ticket openings.
"We'll get the opportunity to try and bring one or two players in," said head coach Carl Robinson. "We won't be spending like other teams [like MLS Cup champions Seattle and runner-up Toronto] who are spending lots and lots of money.
Robinson talks warmly of youngsters Christian Dean and Cole Seiler and has added veteran fullback Sheanon Williams but also acknowledges there is some good defensive talent available in this draft.
Montreal retained most of its big pieces other than aging forward Didier Drogba and will be looking for depth across the board. The Impact are bringing in Swiss international midfielder Blerim Dzemaili over in June.
Toronto is also looking for depth in several areas, having lost midfielder Will Johnson and reserve defenders Josh Williams and Mark Bloom. But given its draft position, it can't afford to be that choosy.
Bezbatchenko says Toronto would not be averse to moving up in the draft, depending on the deal. With two picks in each of the second, third and fourth rounds, Toronto has some bargaining pieces.
TFC signed Canadian youth international midfielder Sergio Camargo as a homegrown player Wednesday, essentially making the move to ensure they don't lose 22-year-old in the draft. Camargo split his college career between Coastal Carolina University and Syracuse University.
Getting picked in the draft is one thing. Making it in MLS is another.
Of the 75 players picked in last year's draft, 35 made an MLS roster although just 23 can still say that, according to the league website. Only 11 played in 10 or more games while seven appeared in 20 or more.