Los Angeles, Ca. – Rumors had swirled around the first two picks in the Friday’s MLS SuperDraft in the days and minutes before expansion clubs Minnesota United and Atlanta United stepped up to the podium at the Los Angeles Convention Center but the newboys defied predictions and held onto their picks.
First Minnesota nabbed U.C.L.A. forward Abu Danladi a quick forward who was limited to just 11 games this season at UCLA. The Loons opened the second round by selecting the first goalkeeper of the SuperDraft when they claimed Wake Forest netminder Alec Ferrell.
Minnesota did eventually make its first ever draft day trade when it sent the 25th pick to Philadelphia for the Union’s number 42 selection plus $50,000 in General Allocation Money.
Today marked the first time that MLS released the amount of Allocation money, something of a breakthrough for a league which has struggled with transparency at times. New York City FC Sporting Director Claudio Reyna was asked if this new openness would change how teams operate.
“It depends for each team,” the longtime “Captain America,” began. “I think every team approaches the draft a little bit different – some clubs may not want to do some deals because they’re so low as well and they feel it could be an insult to somebody.” Reyna, whose Manchester City-owned club splashed out $250,000 to acquire the third pick in the draft from Chicago, added that some might say: “why would you trade for 50K instead of taking the player?”
It was something of a replay of 2016 when Chicago selected Jack Harrison with the first pick only to trade him to New York City FC. The same two clubs made this trade today and if Kwame Awuah works out as well as Harrison for NYC then Reyna’s day will have been a success.
Atlanta United picked twice in the first round opting for Syracuse center back Miles Robinson at number two before grabbing German-born midfielder Julian Gressel with the eighth selection of the first round.
Atlanta Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra seemed happy with the haul telling reporters, “we think they are ready to challenge for minutes now.”
With Jeremy Ebobisse somewhat surprisingly still available at the four spot Houston decided to cash in, sending the 19-year-old to Portland for the number 10 pick (Joe Holland) and $100,000 in General Allocation Money and a 2017 international roster spot.
Breaking the podium norm of politely thanking Mom and Dad and club, etc. was the New York Red Bulls first round selection Zeiko Lewis, who made it clear that he was unhappy to have lasted until the 17th pick, an impression he underlined to the press afterward.
The Bermudan midfielder, listed at 5’6” noted that “I’ve been overlooked my whole life. I’m not the tallest of people, as everybody can see, so everyone just looks over my head.” Lewis seems intent on proving people wrong, a trait that may well endear him to Red Bulls fans. He certainly did that when he called out his new club’s chief rivals, NYCFC, even if he considers Jack Harrison, “a brother.”
Brother or not, Lewis stoked the Hudson River Rivalry with the team’s battle cry, “New York is red.”
One interesting feature of this draft was the back and forth between the host cities two teams, one which does not take the field until 2018, LAFC. That fact didn’t keep supporters of the new kids on the block from engaging in some verbal jousting with the fans of the Galaxy, even if the Galaxy made zero picks in Friday’s two rounds.
The Galaxy did make some news on Friday, however, trading veteran defender A.J. De la Garza to Houston in exchange for $125,000 in General Allocation Money and $50,000 in Targeted Allocation Money.
De la Garza won three MLS Cups with L.A. but becomes a victim of the Galaxy rebuild that has seen Landon Donovan, Steven Gerrard, and Bruce Arena move on since the end of last season.
The remaining two rounds of the MLS SuperDraft will be held on January 17, via conference call.