A year ago, Toronto FC was sitting on a pat hand at the Major League Soccer SuperDraft. This year, the Canadian club is holding rags.
Toronto heads into Thursday's MLS draft in Philadelphia without a first-round pick. In fact, Toronto has only two selections in this entire draft — a second-round pick (No. 24), and a fourth-rounder (No. 53).
It's a far cry from 2009 when the Reds had three first-rounders, which they used to select a talented trio of rookies: midfielder Sam Cronin (No. 2 overall), forward O'Brian White (No. 4) and goalkeeper Stefan Frei (No. 13).
Toronto general manager Mo Johnston, who has enjoyed a great deal of success at the SuperDraft in the past, has been pretty quiet in the build-up to Thursday's festivities, making it impossible to speculate as to whether he's working on any deals in order to move up in the draft order.
According to MLS SuperDraft expert Sean Keay, this year's draft is rich with talent.
"It's deeper than last year's draft, and last year's was one of the most impressive ones to date," Keay said.
"I don't know if the star power is there yet; there are guys who are going to be stars four or five years down the line, but there are 20 to 25 guys who are going to play in MLS for the next two or three years. You'll remember this draft for being so deep. You'll get guys who go in the second round who will contribute.
"There's going to be guys who come in and get playing time, but I don't know if they're going to shine like [2009 rookie of the year] Omar Gonzalez did.… there's a lot of younger talent in this one."
(Read more about the MLS SuperDraft at Sean Keay's website, MLSDraft.net)
If Johnston can't work out a trade deal and the earliest he can get to the podium is in the No. 24 spot, the Toronto GM might want to consider using his top pick on Justin Morrow.
The Notre Dame defender is a solid two-way player who makes rampaging runs down the left flank and is noted for his defensive prowess. He also drew rave reviews after a string of solid outings at the MLS Player Combine in Florida earlier this week.
"He's a great athlete. He can move forward really well, but he also knows his role as a left back and will stick back, and he's a tenacious defender," Sean Keay, a Toronto-based writer and SuperDraft expert, told CBCSports.ca.
"With [Toronto FC captain] Jim Brennan getting older, he might be a good pick for Mo."
Another possible pick for Toronto could be Chris Schuller, a six-foot-four-inch defender from Creighton University in Nebraska who could help address one of the Reds' biggest problem areas: the centre of defence.
"He's a tall, athletic guy who's a good player. Not the finished article, though," Keay said.
While it remains unclear who Toronto will select, there's no mystery surrounding the No. 1 pick overall in the draft, which is held by the Philadelphia Union. All indications are that the expansion franchise will select Danny Mwanga, a 19-year-old striker with Oregon State.
"There are no ifs, and or buts — Philadelphia is totally set on Mwanga. He's a big kid [six-foot-two-inches] who has speed and his scoring touch is exceptional."
This draft also features Canadian content in the form of Teal Bunbury, who was born in Hamilton but grew up in Minnesota.
The Akron striker and son of former Canadian international Alex Bunbury won the prestigious MAC Hermann Trophy, U.S. college soccer's version of the Heisman Trophy, earlier this month and is a projected top-five pick.
Another draft-eligible Canadian is Drake University defender and Ottawa native Julien Edwards who, like Morrow, had a strong showing at the combine.
"He looked very good," Keay said. "He went into it with no fanfare, nobody really knew him, but he turned a few heads."
The first version of this story mistakenly misquoted Sean Kay as referring to LA Galaxy defender Oscar Gonzalez - his first name in Omar. We regret the error.Jan 14, 1970 10:30 AM ET