2012 MLS Draft: Handing out grades
When MLS commissioner Don Garber began the 2012 MLS Draft by speaking French, most people thought he would utter the name Darren Mattocks as the top pick, but when he said Andrew Wenger’s name, it started what ultimately was a great day for the newest MLS franchise.
The Impact came away from Thursday’s draft as one of the big winners, with two quality additions who should contribute in year one.
The draft didn’t have many surprises in the early going, though that changed, with Enzo Martinez’s unexpected slide down the first round and Ethan Finlay’s selection as the 10th overall pick the most surprising of the bunch. Martinez had been projected as high as the top five but slid all the way to Real Salt Lake at No. 17. It was the steal of the day.
So who were the big winners on Thursday? We won’t really know for sure until a few years from now, as the 38 players chosen will either develop into difference makers or merely forgotten draft footnotes. But based on how the players were rated heading into the draft, here is our take on how all 19 teams fared at the draft:
Montreal Impact - A+
Selections: Andrew Wenger (1st), Calum Mallace (20th)
The Impact could have been lured by the blazing speed of Darren Mattocks, but instead they went with the better prospect. Wenger could develop into an all-star and has very little risk.
Jesse Marsch’s squad completed its strong day by landing a quality central midfielder in Mallace, who could wind up challenging for a starting role as a tireless two-way player.
Toronto FC - A+
Selections: Luis Silva (4th), Aaron Maund (12th)
TFC could have grabbed one of the many trade offers that came in for the fourth pick, but they kept it and landed a truly exciting prospect. Silva is an attacking midfielder with the vision, creativity and the mobility to thrive in TFC’s 4-3-3.
Landing Maund could be just as important because Maund’s qualities at centerback make him a good candidate to start. He’s better for my money than Andy Iro, who sources tell me TFC is considering releasing to alleviate salary cap trouble.
Chicago Fire - A
Selections: Austin Berry (9th), Austin Berry (23rd), Hunter Jumper (28th)
The Fire would have loved to grab one of the elite playmakers who went in the first seven picks of the draft, but they were more than happy to come away with a strong center back like Berry, who could allow the Fire to keep Jalil Anibaba at right back.
The second round was where the Fire really did well, grabbing a talented forward in Mkosana and a steal of a left back prospect in Jumper, who some considered a first-round talent.
Real Salt Like - A
Selections: Enzo Martinez (17th), Diogo de Almeida (24th), Sebastian Velasquez (36th)
RSL couldn’t have shown up on draft day expecting to land the player arguably best suited to play in Jason Kreis’ possession system, but that’s what some consider Martinez. He’s a difference-making central midfielder who should provide a major help in making up for the departures of Andy Williams and Collen Warner.
Diogo de Almeida is a skilled left back/center back prospect who could ultimately provide some cover for Chris Wingert, while Sebastian Velasquez is an unknown junior college prospect who RSL coaches seemed to be very happy to grab late in the second round.
FC Dallas - A-
Selections: Matt Hedges (11th)
Schellas Hyndman has to deal with the inevitable departure of George John, so Dallas had to be overjoyed at grabbing the best center back prospect in the draft in Hedges, a big and skilled defender who could step in and start right away.
Vancouver Whitecaps - B+
Selections: Darren Mattocks (2nd), Chris Estridge (21st)
The Whitecaps put on a happy face about landing Mattocks, a dangerous forward who can provide pace up top, but there is no denying that they would have preferred Wenger. Mattocks still provided good value.
Vancouver’s second-round pick wasn’t quite as enticing. Estridge can play left back or right back, but isn’t a good enough right back to justify being the 21st player taken.
Seattle Sounders - B+
Selections: Andrew Duran (15th), Babayele Sodade (34th)
The Sounders were in prime position to grab Enzo Martinez but chose to build depth in the back-line. They grabbed Duran, an experienced, versatile and skillful center back who could also provide some cover at right back.
Sigi Schmid earned high marks with his second-round pick, snagging impressive striker Babayele Sodade, who boasts a rare combination of size, speed and good feet for a big man. He will provide excellent cover for the departure of Nate Jaqua and uncertain future of O’Brian White.
New England Revolution - B
Selections: Kelyn Rowe (3rd), Tyler Polak (21st)
The Revs didn’t get the striker they were hoping for, but by landing two young players in the Generation adidas class, they saved more money for the team to sign players on the international market.
Rowe is a special talent who should play right away in the Revs midfield, while Polak is more of a long-term project who should learn plenty from Heaps, a career left back.
Philadelphia Union - B+
Selections: Chandler Hoffman (13th), Greg Jordan (32nd), Ray Gaddis (35th)
The Union could wind up regretting not grabbing Dom Dwyer to provide some pace up top, but Hoffman is the kind of clinical finisher who could thrive playing in front of the likes of LeToux, Adu and Torres. Should fit right into a squad that includes former UCLA teammate Amobi Okugo.
The Union nabbed a quality defensive midfielder in Greg Jordan, who is a sharp passer and reads the game well, a player who could eventually partner with Okugo and serve as a successor for Brian Carroll. Gaddis was one of the top right back prospects in the nation, but slipped after not even being invited to the Combine. Could provide some key depth if Sheanon Williams goes to the Olympics.
D.C. United - B
Selections: Nick DeLeon (7th)
After trying to trade up in the draft, D.C. ultimately stayed put and landed an exciting wide midfielder in DeLeon. He can be deployed on the left, which could allow Ben Olsen to slot Chris Pontius at forward, or he could play centrally to allow Dwayne DeRosario to play as a second forward. He could see considerable playing time on a D.C. team with serious needs.
Chivas USA - B
Selections: Casey Townsend (5th)
The Goats had several areas of need, but finding a goal-scoring forward was high on the list. Townsend is a natural-born striker, someone who could step in and start right away.
San Jose Earthquakes - B-
Selections: Sam Garza (6th), Jacob Hustedt (25th), Chris Blais (33rd)
The Earthquakes were looking for some help wide and scored the top-rated winger in the draft in Garza, who has the kind of speed that could help the San Jose attack.
Jacob Hustedt could wind up being a sleeper in midfield. The Chris Blais pick was a good value from a talent standpoint, but goalkeeper wasn’t exactly a need for a team that already had Jon Busch and David Bingham on the roster.
Portland Timbers - C+
Selections: Andrew Jean-Baptiste (8th), Brendan King (27th)
The Timbers landed a young center back prospect in Baptiste who boasts impressive size and athleticism but whose decision making and technical ability were questioned by other coaches. If he develops into a lock-down starter, the Timbers will ultimately be ecstatic, but he could wind up taking a while to break through.
Brendan King is a quick winger who could help provide some cover on the right flank, but there were better prospects on the board.
Sporting KC - B+
Selections: Dom Dwyer (16th), Cyprian Hedrick (30th)
Another team that benefited from a Generation adidas player sliding, Sporting KC hit the jackpot by grabbing Dwyer at No. 16, a fearless and athletically gifted striker who should push for playing time right away and could be a darkhorse rookie of the year candidate.
Hendrick is a Coastal Carolina defender KC coaches believe can make the squad - a wild card pick, considering some of the other talent still on the board.
LA Galaxy (C)
Selections: Tommy Meyer (19th), Kenney Walker (38th)
The Galaxy had the final pick of the first round and were always waiting for the best center back left. It turned out to be Meyer, a 6-foot-2 defender who could ultimately help provide some cover for the loss of Omar Gonzalez to a torn ACL.
Kenney Walker was a typical Bruce Arena pick, a tireless and athletic defensive midfielder with the ability to be an effective bulldog in the Galaxy midfield.
Houston Dynamo - C
Selections: Colin Rolfe (18th), Warren Creavalle (37th)
The Dynamo were hoping to land a forward at No. 18 and can’t be too upset about grabbing a player like Rolfe, who came into the 2011 college season as one of the highest rated pro prospects. The only problem is Rolfe endured a disappointing college season then posted a forgettable Combine. That doesn’t mean he couldn’t turn into a star under Kinnear, and Rolfe’s masterful performance in helping Louisville beat Maryland in the NCAA tournament showed that he could still be an impact striker.
Warren Creavalle is the kind of versatile and athletic prospect Kinnear could groom into a squad player.
Colorado Rapids - C-
Selections: Tony Cascio (14th)
Cascio is a good winger prospect who should help Colorado, but the Rapids passed on better options still on the board such as Enzo Martinez and Dom Dwyer.
Columbus Crew - D
Selections: Ethan Finlay (10th), Aubrey Perry (26th), Kevan George (29th)
The Crew have been known to dance to the tune of their own drummer when it comes to the MLS Draft, and it should be noted they scored two quality prospects in Matt Lampson and Ben Speas via the Homegrown Player process, but their picks still felt a bit like reaches.
Finlay enjoyed an accomplished college career, and did enjoy an outstanding day at the MLS Combine. His versatility and speed should contribute to the Columbus attack, but there were just plain better draft prospects on the board at No. 10.
Aubrey Perry was another head-scratching pick, but George is a defensive midfielder who could ultimately wind up helping turn the Crew’s draft into a winner.
New York Red Bulls - D
Selection: Ryan Meara (31st)
The Red Bulls did well with their one pick of the day, but the fact they gave away their first round pick in the Dwayne DeRosario trade last year (a traded that yielded just a few months of DeRosario and eventually Dax McCarty) earned them a bad grade. They avoid a full-blown F by grabbing a very good goalkeeper prospect in Ryan Meara. He is a local product (Fordham) who has all the tools to eventually be a starter in MLS.