The winners and losers of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft
Draft day in Philadelphia delivered plenty of surprises. MLS teams defied experts' expectations on numerous fronts as they selected from a group of young players emerging from the college ranks. Trades -- quite often a major part of the proceedings, regardless of the quality of the talent -- took something of a backseat in 2015. Clubs seemed intent on picking their player, regardless of when they picked or how that pick fit into the pre-draft predictions.
While time will only tell on the ability of the selections to contribute on the professional level, the day delivered enough evidence to declare a handful of winners and losers.
Notre Dame midfielder Nick Besler naturally lives in his big brother's World Cup shadow. With his own professional career now underway, however, the younger Besler will have a chance to match all of Matt's accomplishments. Playing in Portland under Caleb Porter is the perfect arena to meet those goals. Porter's affinity for heady midfielders capable of passing the ball around the park makes the marriage with Besler ideal. Exiting Notre Dame, scouting reports on Besler declared him a first-round talent with a good sense of the game. If there's a coach who can maximize that potential, it's Porter.
Should Besler impress enough in training camp, he might even get immediate minutes for the Timbers; starting midfielder and team captain Will Johnson will miss the start of the season after breaking his leg last year.
To be fair, it would have been difficult for TFC not to be a winner after two rounds of the draft. The Canadian outfit possessed three of the first 11 picks of the draft, ensuring that Toronto would pull some sort of talent out of the proceedings.
What they got was a defensive grab bag of sorts. At No. 6, TFC took Syracuse goalkeeper Alex Bono, one of the top players available and a consensus pro talent. At No. 9, Toronto surprised the room with an off-the-board pick, French full-back Clement Simonin from NC State. At No. 11, Greg Vanney & Co. grabbed Skylar Thomas, a towering center-back who played with Bono at Syracuse.
Though Simonin is a wild card according to most -- maybe TFC knows something most don't -- TFC acquired a top goalkeeping prospect and defensive depth in the first round of the SuperDraft. That's not bad.
New York Red Bulls
After a rough couple of weeks for Red Bulls fans, it must have felt good to get some positive news on draft day. Still smarting from the firing of Mike Petke, the Red Bulls faithful couldn't help but crack a smile when the Hermann Award winner, Leo Stolz of UCLA, fell to the New York team in the 18th draft position.
Stolz is an extremely talented midfielder, but he fell down the order for a reason. Rumors have swirled for months that the Munich native would return home to Germany to play his pro soccer rather than ply his trade in MLS. He still does not have a contract with the league.
But Jesse Marsch told reporters on Thursday that he expects Stolz to be a part of his team in 2015. If true, that's a coup for the Red Bulls.
The consensus No. 2 talent in the draft behind Cyle Larin of Connecticut, Roldan fell all the way down to the No. 16 selection before the Seattle Sounders executed a trade to move up and take the defensive midfielder from the University of Washington. Roldan was "that player," the highly touted talent who slips and slips for reasons no one can quite understand and then becomes the talk of the first round. Multiple reports indicated that Roldan lost out on contract bonuses thanks to his fall from his presumed draft slot in the top five, part of why he shows up in the "losers" category.
That being said, it's also fair to view Roldan's selection by the Sounders as a "win" for both sides. Roldan stays in Washington, where he played his college soccer and has a brother at Seattle University, and the Sounders get good value for an extremely gifted defensive midfielder they can mold as an eventual replacement for Osvaldo Alonso.
Bird, a midfielder out of the University of Virginia, was another player who dropped well down the board despite garnering plenty of praise in the buildup to the draft. Bird fell so far, in fact, that he landed at the 41st overall pick by the Philadelphia Union. While the Union aren't the worst team for a rising college player to find himself with, Bird will find the going difficult in a midfield that provides head coach Jim Curtin with plenty of options.
A creative player that played in a box-to-box style in college, Bird will need time to adjust to the most intense professional game. For such a talented player to plummet deep into the second round indicates that teams are either unsure of his ability to do so or see other potential problems that could make the transition a rocky one.
The Rapids traded up in the first round, swapping picks with Columbus and sending other considerations Crew SC's way, to grab the tallest player in the draft, Marquette defender Axel Sjoberg. Sjoberg's height is impressive at 6-foot-7, but questions abound about his ability to track attackers and remain positionally sound at the professional level. Even if the Rapids were sold on Sjoberg's talents and see him as a potential starter at center-back, it's difficult to see why it was necessary to trade away a future draft pick in order to move up the order. Sjoberg was likely to be available at the Rapids' natural selection, No. 19.
The Rapids went with height with their second-round pick, as well, choosing Navy's Joseph Greenspan. The 6-6 Greenspan is talented, with back-to-back All-America selections to his name, but comes with baggage. As a Naval Academy graduate, Greenspan is committed to five years of active duty service; whether the Rapids and Greenspan can figure out a way to shorten his service commitment and get his pro soccer career underway remains to be seen. Regardless, it's unlikely he'll be suiting up for Colorado this season, bringing the selection, and the wisdom of the Rapids' draft, into question.
Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.