The first round of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft is in the books, and after a record five first-round timeouts and two trades, it’s time to make a once-over of the 17 teams drafting in the first round. The top of the draft was full of surprises, as teams picking later in the first round were delighted to see “top talent” falling into their laps.
Who got a steal? Who reached a bit too far? Who’s going to need to give their first-round pick time to develop? And why did the projected No. 2 overall pick slip all the way to No. 16?
1. Orlando City SC— Cyle Larin, F — (Grade: A-)
Nearly unanimous as the best player in the draft, taken by a team with a serious need at center forward — that’s as close to a “perfect fit” as you’re going to find in the Super Draft.
2. New York City FC — Khiry Shelton, F — (Grade: B+)
6-foot-3, 185 pounds, runs like someone five inches and 20 pounds smaller, an athletic forward, Jason Kreis gets a “Jason Kreis player.”
3. Montreal Impact — Romario Williams, F — (Grade: B+)
Jack McInerney functions best in a 4-4-2, as the off-ball runner alongside a strong, athletic link-up man, which is exactly what Williams is.
4. San Jose Earthquakes — Fatai Alashe, MF — (Grade: B)
Alashe is one of a few midfielders thought to be capable of contributing as a rookie. A destroyer deep in midfield, Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi and Matias Perez Garcia will have newfound freedom to roam.
5. Portland Timbers — Nick Besler, MF – (Grade: B+)
Maybe the most pro-ready player in the draft, Besler will fit right into Caleb Porter’s 4-3-3 system in a number of positions. A midfield connector, he’s great depth after Will Johnson returns from injury.
6, 9 and 11. Toronto FC — Alex Bono, GK; Clement Simonin – DF; Skylar Thomas – DF – (Grade: C)
Do TFC need a goalkeeper? Not necessarily, but if Bono was the best player on their board (and he’s Generation adidas), kudos to them for taking him. Simonin is a pick that came straight out of left field, so the pressure on him to live up to the ninth overall pick is immense. Defensive depth was their biggest area of need, though, and they addressed that with two defenders chosen.
7. Chicago Fire — Matt Polster, DF – (Grade: C)
Another defender chosen well above projection. A local kid (SIU Edwardsville), Frank Yallop has almost definitely seen Polster play on a number of occasions and feels confident he has the upside to justify the No. 7 overall pick.
8. Houston Dynamo — Zach Steinberger, MF — (Grade: C)
The last three picks are a reminder of how unpredictable the SuperDraft is. It’s tough to give Houston anything other than a middling grade as it’ll take time to see if Houston is the “right fit” for Steinberger.
10, 12 and 20. Sporting Kansas City — Connor Hallisey, MF; Saad Abdul-Salaam, DF; Amadou Dia, F/MF – (Grade: B)
Peter Vermes needed two things coming into this draft: depth in defense and midfield. He got all three, including exciting prospects with lots of upside in Hallisey and Abdul-Salaam.
13. Vancouver Whitecaps — Tim Parker, DF – (Grade: B)
Perhaps the Whitecaps’ No. 3 or 4 center back heading into the 2015 season, Parker may actually be able to contribute this year, and the 21-year-old still has time to improve.
14. Colorado Rapids — Axel Sjoberg, DF – (Grade: C+)
Pablo Mastroeni already has a couple center backs very capable of playing with the ball on the ground. What he didn’t have, however, was a hulking aerial presence. The 6-foot-7 Swede gives the Rapids options.
15. FC Dallas — Otis Earle, DF — (Grade: B-)
Earle was projected to go much higher, but fell to FCD at No. 15. Either they got a great “value pick,” or the player fell for a reason. Knowing Oscar Pareja, he’ll bring the left back along quickly and get important minutes out of him in 2015.
16. Seattle Sounders — Cristian Roldan, MF – (Grade: B+)
Roldan fell, and he fell hard. Projected to go No. 2 or 3, the Sounders traded up (a moderate bounty) to take the local college prospect. Landing in Seattle where there’s a new USL PRO team this year might just be the best-case scenario for Roldan to come along slowly.
17. D.C. United — Miguel Aguilar, F – (Grade: B)
Aguilar impressed at the Combine, and United could certainly use some depth on the wings as Chris Rolfe has shifted inside and Chris Pontius is always in danger of being out for three months with an injury.
18. New York Red Bulls — Leo Stolz, MF – (Grade: A-)
If the Red Bulls can convince the college player of the year to sign (he previously declined to sign with MLS, saying he only wanted to play in New York or LA), they’ve got an absolute gem on their hands.
Sometimes Almost always it helps to be in the big city.
19. Columbus Crew — Sergio Campbell, DF – (Grade: C+)
Defensive depth was probably Gregg Berhalter’s biggest need heading into this draft (you’re not going to find a 20-goalscorer here). It’s not a sexy pick, but could certainly be functional.
21. LA Galaxy — Ignacio Magnato, F – (Grade: B)
With Steven Gerrard coming in the summer, and Stefan Ishizaki and Marcelo Sarvas still around, there’s probably not a ton of minutes to be had high in the Galaxy midfield, but Magnato has plenty of raw upside and Bruce Arena will bring him along as well as anyone. UPDATE: LA have reportedly agreed to trade Sarvas to Colorado in exchange for the No. 3 ranking in the allocation order. If this leads to the signing of Sacha Kljestan, the Galaxy are awarded the 2015 MLS Cup.