With many questioning the need for its continued existence the MLS SuperDraft put on a show today with a surprise and trade filled first round that began right from the start when Chicago selected Wake Forest midfielder Jack Harrison.
On its surface the selection was a surprise with Georgetown center back/fullback Joshua Yaro the presumed by most to be first pick in the draft. But Chicago were known to be open to offers for the first pick so, when the Fire tabbed Harrison speculation was immediate that Chicago would soon move the young English attacker.
New York looked the Fire’s most likely suitor, after all the Bronx club had made an ill fated Homegrown Player claim on the former Demon Deacon. But before that drama could play out Philadephia added the second overall pick in the draft to picks three and six which the club came to Baltimore with.
Colorado swapped that second pick, receiving General Allocation Money and a Player to be Named Later from the Philadelphia. The Union quickly scooped up Yaro and then added his Georgetown back four mate, fullback Keegan Rosenberry, with pick number three.
Next NYCFC was up and that when things got weird. New York traded the pick to Chicago for what was first announced as Allocation Money, only to have Commissioner Don Garber come back minutes later, Steve Harvey style to correct NYC’s compensation to a Player to be Named Later.
By now that speculation was raging that the pick would be Harrison. Meanwhile the draft continued and Chicago had yet to introduce Harrison, the first overall pick in the SuperDraft remember, to the media.
We would find out why when Harrison was finally confirmed as the Player to be Named by Garber. When the deal was finally done Harrison seemed equal parts happy and relieved. “I had no idea, me and me mum were just waiting there, just waiting for the news really,” Harrison relayed to the press with a nervous laugh.
Harrison added that, “it was just exciting really, it’s a nice feeling to be wanted and,” the attack minded midfield added, “I’m just so grateful for the opportunity and wherever I ended up I was going to be happy either way, me and my mum.”
For his part Chicago Fire GM Nelson Rodriguez didn’t want to cause Harrison and his mother any undue worry. “We’re talking about an 18 year old (actually 19),” Rodriguez told the media afterwards, “and we were very sensitive to how he might react and be treated and for that reason I actually spoke to his agent ahead of time and told him- Jack’s our choice but there’s a scenario that could play out where he may find himself at New York City and I want you to be prepared for that.”
“It’s important to us that he and his family and his agent knew we thought that way,” Nelson said, before talking more about the trade. “The offer from Red Bull”, Rodriguez explained, mixing up his New York teams, “was one that really worked well for us, it’s going to help us complete our puzzle of putting together our team.”
“We love Brandon Vincent too,” Rodriguez said, speaking of the Stanford fullback that Chicago selected with that fourth pick. “We think he’s a superb human being and an excellent soccer player.”
Rodriguez and his coach Veljko Paunovic are Chicago’s new management team and the duo have made it clear that they value character in their players, with both explaining that they want players who live the “soccer lifestyle.”
Rodriguez showed himself to be something of a poet when he described building a team by saying, “I think it is part of the mosaic of putting a team together, we’re a young team,” the former MLS executive said, “so you should expect that our (new) center backs would likely be more experienced.”
“We look at as you’re trying to put a puzzle together, we’re cognizant of that but look; young fresh legs, adaptive minds, good mentality; what we really look for at the core are players who have a soccer lifestyle.”
GotSoccer asked Fire coach Paunovic exactly what a constitutes a “soccer lifestyle?” The former Serbian U17 mentor was glad to lay it out for us in very good, if imperfect English. “It’s someone who lives and breathes soccer,” Paunovic began enthusiastically. “It means someone who, first of all, as a human, he’s a good person, someone who likes soccer, someone who watches soccer, someone who wants to improve, someone, “Paunovic said gaining steam, “who is a good teammate, someone who understands the eternal codes of the locker room, what that means, someone who wants to learn from the veterans, someone who respects the community where he’s coming from the club, where he’s coming the locker room where he’s coming, what was before him, and what is coming after him.”
“All these kind of things,” Paunovic said with a broad smile, before adding one last trait for the soccer lifestyle, “someone who is really a good soccer player, and that is the most important one.”
41 soccer players were selected today by Major Leagues Soccer’s 20 clubs today in Baltimore. 40 more will be selected over two more rounds on Tuesday. Columbus had an extra pick at the end of the second round today thanks to a 2014 trade with now defunct Chivas USA, more weirdness.
With those three early picks Philadelphia has given its beleaguered fan base reason to be optimistic, an unfamiliar feeling to be sure for sports fans these days in the City of Brotherly Love.
And that is a big part of what days like this are all about in sports. Putting together that puzzle, sure, but also giving fans someone to root for. Most professional soccer fans have seen very few of the players drafted by their favorite teams today. Still they filled the Baltimore Convention Center with color, noise, chants and hope.
Commissioner Garber for one still, “believes in drafts.” And Garber adds, “it’s great for those kids (the players) getting to hold that kit is what players dream of, so I believe in it.” Garber acknowledges that, “as you start seeing more and more players being signed as Homegrown Players and fewer and fewer players coming out of the college system we’ll have to figure out whether the size and the scope of it continues to be what it is today.”
“But,” the commissioner concluded, “I think it’s one of those special, special moments and as long as it makes sense we’re going to continue to do it.”
|1 (1)||Chicago Fire (traded to NYCFC)||Jack Harrison||M||Wake Forest|
|2 (2)||Philadelphia Union||Joshua Yaro||D||Georgetown|
|3 (3)||Philadelphia Union||Keegan Rosenberry||D||Georgetown|
|4 (4)||Chicago Fire||Brandon Vincent||D||Stanford|
|5 (5)||Real Salt Lake||Omar Holness||F||North Carolina|
|6 (6)||Philadelphia Union||Fabian Herbers||M||Creighton|
|7 (7)||Orlando City SC||Richmond Laryea||M||Akron|
|8 (8)||San Jose Earthquakes||Andrew Tarbell||G||Clemson|
|9 (9)||Toronto FC||Tsubasa Endoh||M||Maryland|
|10 (10)||New England Revolution||Jordan McCrary||D||North Carolina|
|11 (11)||D.C. United||Julian Buescher||D||Syracuse|
|12 (12)||Chicago Fire||Jonathan Campbell||D||North Carolina|
|13 (13)||Orlando City SC||Hadji Barry||F||Central Florida|
|14 (14)||Montreal Impact||Kyle Fisher||D||Clemson|
|15 (15)||Colorado Rapids||Emmanuel Appiah||M||Cincinnati|
|16 (16)||Vancouver Whitecaps FC||Cole Seiler||D||Georgetown|
|17 (17)||FC Dallas||Ryan Herman||G||Washington|
|18 (18)||New York Red Bulls||Justin Bilyeu||D||SIU-Edwardsville|
|19 (19)||Columbus Crew SC||Rodrigo Saravia||M||FGCU|
|20 (20)||Portland Timbers FC||Ben Polk||F||Syracuse|
|1 (21)||Columbus Crew SC||Chase Minter||M||Cal Poly|
|2 (22)||Chicago Fire||Alex Morrell||F||North Florida|
|3 (23)||Philadelphia Union||Taylor Washington||D||George Mason|
|4 (24)||Montreal Impact||Michael Salazar||F||UC Riverside|
|5 (25)||Real Salt Lake||Max Lachowecki||D||Notre Dame|
|6 (26)||Houston Dynamo||Ivan Magalhaes||D||Maryland|
|7 (27)||Seattle Sounders FC||Tony Alfaro||D||CSU Dominguez Hills|
|8 (28)||San Jose Earthquakes||Patrick Hodan||M||Notre Dame|
|9 (29)||Vancouver Whitecaps FC||Christopher Hellmann||F||Lynn|
|10 (30)||New England Revolution||Michael Gamble||F||Wake Forest|
|11 (31)||Columbus Crew SC||Kyle Parker||F||Charlotte|
|12 (32)||D.C. United||Paul Clowes||M||Clemson|
|13 (33)||FC Dallas||Timo Pitter||M||Creighton|
|14 (34)||Montreal Impact||Eric Verso||M||Stanford|
|15 (35)||Seattle Sounders FC||Zach Mathers||M||Duke|
|16 (36)||Vancouver Whitecaps FC||Thomas Sanner||F||Princeton|
|17 (37)||Colorado Rapids||Dennis Castillo||D||VCU|
|18 (38)||New York Red Bulls||Zach Carroll||D||Michigan State|
|19 (39)||Montreal Impact||Keegan Smith||F||San Diego|
|20 (40)||Portland Timbers FC||Neco Brett||M||Robert Morris|
|21 (41)||Columbus Crew SC||Marshall Hollingsworth||F||Wheaton|