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Joe gives grades to MLS draft classes

Published: January 16, 2012
 
With the first two rounds of the 2012 MLS Super Draft completed, here are my grades for each team.

Grade A+
  • Montreal Impact – It’s hard to mess up a draft having the first pick, but Vancouver showed in 2011 it can be done. As an expansion team, Montreal has many needs and they picked up Andrew Wenger (#1) and Calum Mallace (#20); two smart players with on-the-field personalities that remind me of their head coach, Jesse Marsch – talented hard-nosed winners.
Grade A
  • Vancouver Whitecaps – This year Vancouver made outstanding choices. Darren Mattocks (#2) provides quickness and goal scoring ability that could develop into a special player. Trying to plug their sieve-like defense, Chris Estridge (#21) should provide defensive depth and versatility. Estridge had a poor combine, but I rely more on his accomplishments at Indiana.
Grade A-
  • FC Dallas – With only a single pick, Dallas picked a player of need and the best senior defender with Matt Hedges (#11).
  • Seattle Sounders – Made two high-reward player selections with Andrew Duran (#15) and Babayele Sodade (#34). Duran has the versatility to play center back, right back or where he might be best at defensive midfield. I suspect that first year Washington coach, Jamie Clark has had many conversations about his last coaching gig at Creighton with his cross-town professional team. Kurt Schmid is one of the most shrewd talent evaluators. Sodade had a tremendous combine and showed that he could fill a target forward slot with smart, aggressive play.
Grade B+
  • DC United – With a sole pick and many needs, DC United played it safe with the best player available, Nick Deleon (#7). He plays a similar role as Chris Pontius who suffered a season-ending injury and coincidentally DC United went into a losing streak at the same time. Deleon is best at left midfield, but his ability to get back will be crucial since DC United lacks a MLS-caliber starting left back. I wouldn’t be shocked if Deleon is tried at left back. Ethan Finlay may have been a better fit since he is primarily a goal scoring forward.
  • Chivas USA – Also, with just one pick, they got a versatile forward, Casey Townsend (#5) who has the ability to score in many ways.
  • Colorado Rapids – They used their one pick for Tony Cascio (#14). He has the body that reminds me of Sal Zizzo and Cascio can blast shots from either foot.
Grade B
  • Los Angeles Galaxy – Having the last pick in both rounds, Los Angeles was able to find serviceable MLS quality defenders in Tommy Meyer (#19) and Kenney Walker (#38). Meyer was the best center back candidate remaining and Walker is a steal with the potential to be a starter in the future, because he’s a smart player.
  • New York Red Bulls – They were able to fill a need at goalkeeper depth while drafting clearly the best goalkeeper in the pool with local Yonkers product, Ryan Meara (#31). I’d like this pick better, if New York had actually come and watched and talked to Meara at Fordham. Given New York’s track record with draft picks, Meara is more likely to be seen on the side of a milk carton than at Red Bull Arena.
Grade B-
  • Philadelphia Union – With 3 picks, the Union got some talented players, but all of them come with inherent risk. Chandler Hoffman (#13) was an acceptable pick, but I could see him not working out – he’s not a sure thing. I really like Greg Jordan (#32). He’s a smart and he plays like a Brian Carroll clone. Jordan’s speed is the question. According to Taylor Twellman, Philadelphia is planning on playing Ray Gaddis (#35) at center back. As best as I know, Gaddis has only played right back at West Virginia. He has good recovery speed, but this move would be a project.
  • Columbus Crew – They started strong with a nifty pick to choose the best senior forward in the draft with Ethan Finlay (#10). Finlay is a quick player with versatility to play wide midfield. He’s been my number 1 senior for the majority of the year. The two subsequent selections, (Aubrey Perry (#26) and Kevan George (#29)), were not the best picks. Warren Creavalle would have been a better pick that could have filled the roles that these two players fill.
  • Real Salt Lake – They selected 3 interesting players. While some pundits exclaimed that Enzo Martinez (#17) was the steal of the draft, I think he went appropriately. Real Salt Lake is the best place for Martinez with their ball control style. However, Martinez has holes in his game so he’ll be able to develop without having the pressure as a starter at first. Diogo de Almeida (#24) is a poor defender who may make the team but only as reserve and practice fodder. There were much better options available. I have no comment on Sebastian Velasquez since I’ve never seen him play (the only player drafted that I haven’t seen at least 3 times).
Grade C+
  • Houston Dynamo – They didn’t do poorly, but they could have done much better. Colin Rolfe (#18) is an adequate choice, but a better target forward would have been Babayele Sodade as a better Brian Ching replacement. Rolfe is not a sure bet, I give him a 50/50 chance to develop into a MLS forward. I really like the Warren Creavalle pick at #37, though.
  • San Jose Earthquakes – Sam Garza (#6) was too high a pick for him. Finlay/Deleon would have been better selections. With Garza inconsistency is prevalent. Jacob Hustedt (#25) is the pearl of their draft. I’d rather have Hustedt more than Garza. He’s a talent. I wouldn’t be surprised to find him playing right back. The Chris Blais (#33) pick is a waste – the goalkeepers in this pool are weak and with Jon Busch and David Bingham they don’t really need to waste a second round pick on a 3rd. Lastly, San Jose should have gotten a solid defender with the 6th pick rather than another wide midfielder/forward.
Grade C
  • Chicago Fire – They picked 3 players but these players are horrible fits for the needs of Chicago. While I like the perspective of choosing the best player, it can’t be done with total disregard of the current needs. Austin Berry (#9) is arguably one of the best center backs in the draft pool, but they already have had problems finding center back minutes for 2011 center back draftee, Jalil Anibaba. Berry can only play center back. They urgently need a right back or depth at left back. With both higher ranked left backs taken directly before Chicago’s 34th selection, Lucky Mkosana is a complementary forward with Dominic Oduro and Patrick Nyarko. Hunter Jumper (#28) is a wasted pick and a move out of desperation. Jumper will be eaten alive 1v1 against quick forwards.
  • Sporting Kansas City – This is the third straight draft that they have chosen a forward in the first round. Kansas City could have been better served rather than taking Dom Dwyer (#16) with choosing Calum Mallace to solidify their midfield or Chris Estridge/Tyler Polak for left back depth. Cyprian Hedrik (#30) was a poor decision. He’s a good athlete but I don’t care for his ball skills. A better pick would have been one of the faster backs that were available to chase attackers that blow past the Sporting defenders.
  • New England Revolution – In their quest for mediocrity and strict fiduciary frugality, a grade of C (average) seems apropos. New England was able to get 2 Generation Adidas players, Kelyn Rowe (#3) and Tyler Polak (#22). I’m not sure that Rowe is a good fit with Benny Feilhaber already being the primary playmaker. Perhaps, Rowe and Feilhaber will pair to generate the attack, but it reduces positional flexibility. Polak is a good pick that could develop into a solid left back.
Grade C-
  • Toronto FC – They made a sensational pick with Luis Silva (#4). He’s the best playmaker in the pool. But with the #12 pick, they inexplicably chose Aaron Maund who is one of the rawest center backs. Duran would have been a better choice.
Grade D
  • Portland Timbers – chose 2 poor players, Andrew Jean-Baptiste (#8) and Brendan King (#27) that might find a way onto the roster, but their play would be disastrous for the Portland fans. Jean-Baptiste is a thick athletic defender who should not be allowed to touch the ball in the attack. I’ve never been a Brendan King fan. He did well at the combine, but I’d be concerned as a Portland fan.
 
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