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MLS SuperDraft: What you need to know (and more mock)

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Major League Soccer’s SuperDraft is set to being at 3 p.m. EDT, and some clubs will see their franchise altered with the addition of a future star.

That’s not overblown, not now, not ever, and it isn’t limited to the top picks. Without further ado, here’s what to know before the Draft.

[ MORE: Klopp on Mourinho ]

1) No.1 matters… — While it was certainly more of a crapshoot during its first few editions — the draft started in 2000 — the last few drafts have provided downright stars.

Jack Harrison’s performance after NYCFC selected him out of Wake Forest last season capped a three-year run that includes Jamaican superstar backstop Andre Blake (UConn) and Canadian whizkid Cyle Larin (UConn).

2) …But so do the latter stages — While Homegrown kids and young prospects from outside the United States can change the dynamic of a club, smart drafting gives teams an incredible edge (And we’re not just talking about probable bargains like Colorado taking Dominique Badji at 67th in 2015).

Here are some fantastic bargains, second round or later, in MLS history:

51st overall (2010) — Sean Johnson, Chicago
50th overall (2007) — Luis Robles, DC United
42nd overall (2008) — Geoff Cameron, Houston
37th overall (2006) — Jonathan Bornstein, Chivas USA
36th overall (2004) – Michael Bradley, MetroStars
35th overall (2000) – Nick Rimando, Miami Fusion
29th overall (1997) – Kevin Hartman, LA Galaxy
28th (2010) — Justin Morrow, San Jose
27th (2012) — Miguel Ibarra, Portland Timbers
27th (2001) — Edson Buddle, Columbus
23rd (2009) — Graham Zusi, Kansas City
18th (2010) — Tim Ream, New York Red Bulls
17th (2006) — Jozy Altidore, Metrostars

3) The Combine does matter — While a lot of leeway is given to players pushed out of position by the Combine, where center backs often are forced out wide and center mids out to the wings, you’re in a bad spot if you’re a forward who can’t generate a ton of offense.

Some players have dropped out of the first round for this reason, while the Combine has helped some players significantly. Daniel Johnson started the week as the 15th pick in my mock and Zeiko Lewis wasn’t in the picture. Their fortunes have changed significantly.

[ MORE: One Combine star’s 10,403-mile journey ]

4) Trades for days — With Minnesota United and Atlanta United picking first and second, those picks could be more likely used as currency. And even after the dropoff between franchise changers and longtime starters, teams will want their guy. Expect a lot of movement. In some cases, like last year’s trade between Chicago and Philadelphia, it may even be NBA-styled post-pick trades.

5) Final Mock SuperDraft —

  1. Minnesota United — Jeremy Ebobisse, FWD (Duke)
  2. Atlanta United — Miles Robinson, DEF (Syracuse)
  3. Chicago Fire — Jonathan Lewis, FWD (Akron)
  4. Houston Dynamo —Lalas Abubakar, DEF (Dayton)
  5. Columbus Crew — Jackson Yueill, FWD (UCLA)
  6. San Jose Earthquakes — Brandon Aubrey, DEF (Notre Dame)
  7. Vancouver Whitecaps —Abu Danladi, FWD (UCLA)
  8. Atlanta United —Daniel Johnson, MID (Louisville)
  9. Columbus Crew — Reagan Dunk, DEF (Denver)
  10. Portland Timbers —Brian Wright, FWD (Vermont)
  11. Chicago Fire — Shamit Shome, MID (FC Edmonton)
  12. DC United — Nick DePuy, FWD (UCSB)
  13. Real Salt Lake —Chris Odoi-Atsem, DEF (Maryland)
  14. Sporting KC — Napo Matsoso, MID (Kentucky)
  15. Colorado Rapids — Francis De Vries, DEF (St. Francis PA)
  16. Seattle Sounders —Jacori Hayes, MID (Wake Forest)
  17. New York Red Bulls —Eric Klenofsky, GK (Monmouth)
  18. FC Dallas — Niko Hansen, MID (New Mexico)
  19. Montreal Impact – Adonijah Reid, FWD (Canada U-20)
  20. New England Revolution —Russell Cicerone, FWD (Buffalo)
  21. Toronto FC — Zeiko Lewis, MID (Boston College)
  22. Seattle Sounders — Walker Hume, DEF (UNC)

And, since it’s insane to nab second rounders in order (though we’re insane), here’s the batch we expected to go in the second.

Brian Nana-Sinkam, DEF (Stanf0rd); Liam Callahan, DEF (Syracuse); Justin Schmidt, DEF (Washington); Julian Gressel, MID (Providence); Chris Nanco, FWD (Syracuse); Kwame Awuah, MID (UConn); Colton Storm, DEF (UNC); Wulito Fernandes, FWD (UMass-Lowell); David Goldsmith, FWD (Butler); Jordan Wilson, DEF (Kentucky); Jorge Gomez Sanchez, FWD (Temple); Jakob Nerwinski, DEF (UConn); Brandt Bronico, MID (Charlotte); Guillermo Delgado, FWD (Delaware); Daniel Deakin, FWD (South Carolina); Christian Flath, MID (Rider); Austin Ledbetter, DEF (SIUE); Alec Farrell, GK (Wake Forest); Eddie Sanchez, MID (Portland); Christian Thierjung, FWD (Cal); Eric Lynch, MID (Wright State).

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Pique finds solidarity with criticized NBA players

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There have been a number f outstanding pieces in The Players’ Tribune since its launch, but few as colorful and entertaining as Thursday’s entry from Gerard Pique.

The Barcelona star center back spilled the beans on any number of funny stories in his post, from Roy Keane’s cell phone anger and Sir Alex Ferguson‘s guiding hand to Lionel Messi’s greatness and more.

[ MORE: Zlatan in MLS an auto success ]

But perhaps most interesting was his take on the grief he’s received for supporting the vote for Catalan independence. Pique points out that he’s been proud to represent the Spanish national team, but won’t veer from his democratic beliefs.

And guess what? Even in Spain, athletes rightly bristle at the “Stick to Sports” crowd.

It’s funny, I noticed some people in America have started telling the NBA players to “just shut up and dribble” when they express their opinions on real problems in society.

It’s ridiculous, no?

It’s the same here in Spain. They say, “Just shut up and play football. It’s all you know.”

Sorry, but I will not just shut up and play. It’s not all I know. There’s a lot more depth to footballers than most people realize, and I think it’s important that we express ourselves and our views.

Given relative health, Zlatan’s success MLS is close to automatic

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The only question is his knee at his age.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is coming to Major League Soccer. Having confirmed his departure from Manchester United, the announcement that the living Swedish legend is joining the LA Galaxy is expecting next week.

[ MORE: MLS Weekend Preview ]

Some have asked whether he’ll cut muster in the league, to which we point to the lead: Few players have arrived to MLS with as dominant a career as Ibrahimovic, and the Swede would need his knee to fall apart in order to fail in California.

The man’s game isn’t based on speed, but it does require his abnormal power and grace. He scored just once for United in very limited time this season, but don’t forget how dangerous he was against Premier League and Europa League defenses last season.

He scored 28 goals with 10 assists last season, with 17 and 5 coming in league play. He was suspended for three matches and injured for seven, meaning this is a 20-goal Premier League scorer arriving in MLS within a calendar year of doing so.

Try putting his resume in perspective: Didier Drogba was extremely good for Montreal but a half-decade removed from his last double-digit goal PL season (Don’t forget that Drogba bagged 11 in 11 to start life on our shores). Robbie Keane was about the same time removed from his run of 10-plus goal seasons in the Premier League. He was good for LA.

The only risk here is that Ibrahimovic never gets healthy and LA takes a bit of a loss on his salary (one which is at least partially negated by the sheer number of Ibrahimovic Galaxy jerseys sold).

Entering this season, Ibrahimovic had failed to score 15 goals once since 2006. He’a also had a fairly religious assist output (10+ most years). With names like Alessandrini, Kamara, and dos Dos Santos, this should be a stand-up double if not a homer for LA and for MLS.

Plus the vicious looks after teammates miss him badly with a pass, let alone the press conferences and paparazzi hits: This should be a lot of fun.

MLS Weekend Preview: Friedel’s Revs get NYCFC test

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It’s an international break, and Major League Soccer is only sorta observing it.

More than half of the league’s clubs will participate on Saturday match days, with several shorthanded by national team duty.

[ MORE: Southgate on racism in football]

Columbus won’t have Zack Steffen and Wil Trapp for a visit from DC United — who is missing Zoltan Steiber, Bruno Miranda, and Oniel Fisher — while the Red Bulls will be without Tyler Adams, Kemar Lawrence, and Michael Murillo for Minnesota United’s visit.

NYCFC won’t have Alexander Ring, Ronald Matarrita, and Rodney Wallace, Portland’s without David Guzman and Andy Polo, and Sporting KC loses Daniel Salloi.

The Whitecaps won’t have center back Kendall Waston, while opponents LA Galaxt are without Ola Kamara.

New England Revolution vs. New York City FC — 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday

Brad Friedel‘s New England revolution, purposely lower case, is making believers out of its players. It would take a giant step if it could slow the NYCFC juggernaut. The visitors have allowed just one goal in their 3-0 start.

As for the hosts, Friedel has made his mark in a way that mostly makes you wonder what in the world Jay Heaps was doing:.

(Bunbury) pointed to a fine system in the locker room, increased accountability, how Friedel posts the starting XI on game day, and occasional two-a-day training sessions, which never occurred in the forward’s four years under Heaps.

“I think it unifies the team,” Bunbury said. “The broad sense of professionalism, it’s about having respect for each other and making sure you are held accountable in every part of this club.”

Never occurred under Heaps? Woof.

FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers — 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday

FCD had an uninspiring ending to their CONCACAF Champions League dreams, but that’s little compared to the Timbers’ 0-2 start under Gio Savarese. A trip down South isn’t a surefire way to right the ship.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. LA Galaxy — 10 p.m. ET Saturday

A long trip up North is only made worse by a laundry list of injuries for Sigi Schmid’s Galaxy. We’re only listing it amongst our Top Three because an LA win would be wildly impressive given the ‘Caps strong start.


Columbus Crew vs. DC United — 6 p.m. ET Saturday
New York Red Bulls vs. Minnesota United — 7 p.m. ET Saturday
Colorado Rapids vs. Sporting KC — 9 p.m. ET Saturday

Mourinho: “People with brains” understand Man Utd in transition

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Jose Mourinho’s been having a little fun on his international break, “managing” a team of superstars including Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt in a charity match.

[ MORE: Southgate talks racism in football ]

Speaking CNN as part of a publicity run, Mourinho was asked about Manchester United’s second place campaign and disappointment after dropping out of the UEFA Champions League.

Mourinho reiterated his position that United is a team in transition, and that the season is going along at an acceptable clip.

“I understand the frustration, I understand the sadness of being knocked out in the Champions League, but I don’t understand anything more than that,” Mourinho said to CNN’s Amanda Davies.

United has scored the third-most goals in the Premier League, and allowed the fourth-fewest. It’s drastically reduced its propensity to draw matches, which hurt its table position last season, and has already surpassed last season’s goal total.

Two more wins, 10 goals better differential, and the list goes on but unfortunately also includes crosstown rivals running away with the league and still alive in the UCL.

“Of course in the future we want to have 19 clubs behind us but this is the reality,” said Mourinho. “And the reality is for people with brain, with sense, with common sense, with knowledge of what sports is, we are in a moment of transition. Being in a moment of transition and still manage to do what he did last season and win trophies and to do what we are trying to do this season, which is still trying to win a trophy, and try to be second, because in this moment it’s the only top position that is possible for us to get. I think we are in a good position.”