Can D.C. United use their three picks to bolster the squad?
The 2022 MLS SuperDraft is this afternoon, with expansion side Charlotte FC kicking things off with the first pick. While the event has become less prominent with time, it still marks an unofficial beginning of the season for Major League Soccer, and teams are still able to find important players if they’ve put in time scouting and are prepared to develop them.
When does D.C. United pick?: United has the 13th pick in all three rounds, meaning they pick at #13, #41, and the nicest pick of all, #69. Unless, as commenter Brendanukkah notes, they don’t have that 41st pick. Information from MLS says they do, but past trades say they may not.
Of course, last year they were willing to pay $125,000 to move up to the #5 pick, which came just after they had picked at #4, so do not rule out some moves to add to the total, or bundle the three picks to move up, or possibly even a move like their 2018 choice to trade out of the draft before the event.
What can we reasonably expect out of these picks?: It’s a very mixed bag these days. With two picks in the top five last year, United ended up getting 110 total MLS minutes out of their two selections, and all of those were Kimarni Smith early in the year. Smith did enough at Loudoun to stick around for another season, while Michael DeShields (who ended up dealing with a series of knocks with Loudoun) was waived.
On the other hand, Vancouver’s starting right back Javain Brown was picked 23rd overall, and players like Edward Kizza (New England), Aedan Stanley (Austin), and Justin McMaster (Minnesota) appeared in over 20% of their club’s MLS matches in 2021. As ever, a pick doesn’t have to be a Generation Adidas player or a top three selection to succeed in year one.
That said, realistically the path from draft day to MLS playing time most often requires some seasoning with a USL affiliate side. Smith, DeShields, and Logan Panchot (United’s third pick last year) were regulars for Ryan Martin, and this year’s picks figure to be made with games at Segra Field in mind, at least in the short term. And I do mean short: 2020 first rounders like Jack Maher, Dylan Nealis, and Miguel Berry turned professional debut seasons largely playing USL ball into important roles in year two.
One last note: United is paying close attention to the college game. Last year, they ended up signing Matt Di Rosa and Giovanni Montesdeoca (picked on draft day by Toronto and Dallas, respectively) by mid-season. They scooped up 2020 picks Keegan Meyer and Barry Sharifi (taken by New England and the Red Bulls) heading into last year’s preseason. Names you hear today may well end up being players the club believes they can develop in Leesburg.
What do you think United should do?: It’s “best player available” all the way, baby! With a development team to use, and the gulf in quality between MLS and the collegiate game, picking based on position is a bit silly. You maybe want to avoid picking players at a position where your pipeline is extremely well-stocked — with Moses Nyeman and Jeremy Garay needing to play minutes, taking a defensive midfielder that could interfere with that is maybe not ideal — but other than that, it’s just about ceiling, coachability, and all that. It’s better to swing for the fences and miss sometimes than it is to plan on your pick being your second-choice left back or whatever.
That said, if a player has a Generation Adidas deal, you probably want to grab him, as those players are a) free for salary cap purposes, and b) generally among the best prospects in the pool. This year’s GA crop has eight players, so there’s a chance (let’s say one in three?) that one or two of them are still on the board when United goes on the clock.
Start time: 3:00pm Eastern (though the league is running a pre-draft show starting at 2:30 if you want to give this thing your entire afternoon)
Available TV: None
Available streaming: Pretty much every MLS media platform: MLSsoccer.com, the league’s Twitter account, their Youtube page, the MLS app, and if you’re absolutely rotten inside and keep defying my advice to abandon it, it’s on MLS’s Facebook page as well.
What are you drinking?: It’s cold as hell today, so I think I’m going with some hot green tea during this one.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos draft picks being super!