With Toronto's selection of Maurice Edu to open the 2007 MLS SuperDraft, it seemed as if the draft would go according to plan. However, the choice of Wake Forest midfielder Wells Thompson by New England was one of several surprises to dot the first round. Here's my take on the picks:
1. TORONTO FC -- Maurice Edu, midfielder, Maryland
Coach Mo Johnston didn't surprise many people by selecting the rangy holding midfielder, a sort of Shalrie Joseph-type in some minds. With Johnston's expansion-side roster still developing, Edu will have a chance to make an early imprint. Edu is a former attacker who found a home at holding midfielder, where he'll probably play for Johnston.
2. CHICAGO -- Bakary Soumare, defender, Virginia
Coach Dave Sarachan seemed set at the back but made a trade to move up from the eighth spot to select the tall, quick defender. Sarachan didn't want to take any chances on getting beaten to Soumare, who lacks polish but owns the physical skills to one day dominate in a Fire defense that is getting a bit old (Tony Sanneh and C.J. Brown are a combined 67 years old).
3. KANSAS CITY -- Michael Harrington, defender, North Carolina
He can play anywhere on the back line but will most likely fall in along the right for coach Curt Onalfo's team. If Harrington gets his MLS feet under him quickly, he'll merge into a back line alongside steely central defenders Jimmy Conrad and Nick Garcia -- not at all a bad place for Onalfo to begin reconstructing the wayward Wizards.
4. REAL SALT LAKE -- Chris Seitz, goalkeeper, Maryland
Coach John Ellinger took the moose of the 2007 draft (6-4, 210 pounds) in Seitz. Ellinger added a third potential starting goalkeeper (along with Scott Garlick and recently acquired Nick Rimando) instead of a central defender to begin apprenticing under Eddie Pope. Seitz is the U.S. U-20 goalkeeper, which means he could miss significant time this summer.
5. NEW ENGLAND -- Wells Thompson, midfielder, Wake Forest
New England traded away a partial allocation to get Los Angeles' pick here. Could coach Steve Nicol have gotten Thompson later in the draft and saved the allocation money? We'll never know, but most teams didn't have Thompson rated quite so highly. Then again, Nicol has made a habit of seeing something that others miss. Andy Dorman and James Riley were all taken after the first round, and Clint Dempsey and Pat Noonan were both picked up after the first eight picks.
6. COLORADO RAPIDS -- Nico Colaluca, midfielder, Virginia
The Rhode Island native worked hard to improve his attention to defense over the last two years at Virginia, but he's still got something to prove, especially in maintaining discipline. A versatile attacker and creator, he's probably best suited to play wide in midfield. Having recently added some defensive help through trades, and still well-stocked in the middle, that's where coach Fernando Clavijo needed help the most.
7. CHIVAS USA -- John Cunliffe, forward, Fort Lewis College
Odd distinction: Chivas USA is the first team to slog through an MLS draft without a coach. Assistant coach Preki ran the show and took the mop-haired forward, the only Division II player selected Friday. Recently acquired Amado Guevara is already on board to compensate for the loss of Juan Pablo Garcia. So perhaps Cunliffe, who was impressive at the combine, can replace Juan Francisco Palencia. He was the first true forward taken Friday.
8. CHICAGO -- Jerson Monteiro, forward, Alabama-Birmingham
Having already selected a defender, coach Dave Sarachan had some room to gamble a bit. So he took the big body from UAB, who may be a replacement for Nate Jaqua (now with Los Angeles). Although Monteiro played forward in college, he manned the right midfield spot at the MLS combine and looked comfortable running at defenders and making late charges into the penalty area.
9. FC DALLAS -- Anthony Wallace, defender/midfielder, South Florida
Coach Steve Morrow, in charge on draft day for the first time, was thrilled when Wallace fell to the ninth spot. Word was that Columbus had him circled at the No. 2 spot before trading out of it. Wallace, 17, currently with the U.S. U-20s and with only one year of college, is speedy and tireless, meaning he can cover lots of ground. He is currently a holding midfielder for the U-20s but can also man the outside spots.
10. TORONTO FC -- Andrew Boyens, defender, New Mexico
Coach Mo Johnston, who started the day with just 12 men on his roster, scooped up a second pick in the opening round by trading a partial allocation to Los Angeles for the Galaxy's first pick. Selecting the big (6-4) New Zealand under-23 international was risky because he's toying with notions of returning home to play. But Boyens seems worth the risk. He can dominate in the air. He's fearless. And he can be a dangerous asset on offensive set-piece situations.
11. D.C. UNITED -- Bryan Arguez, midfielder/defender, U.S. U-20 national team
Freddy Adu and Alecko Eskandarian have changed MLS addresses. Jaime Moreno isn't getting any younger. So United takes ... a defender/midfielder, of course. He looks like the consummate "best athlete available." United, with Moreno's expensive contract and more big-money pickups on the way from South America, may be a bit short of cap room. That made Arguez, a Generation Adidas selection who doesn't count against the salary cap, an even more attractive first-round target.
12. NEW ENGLAND -- Amaechi Igwe, midfielder, Santa Clara
Coach Steve Nicol had a big hole to fill in his attack with Clint Dempsey's departure to Fulham. He helped fill the gap with two lefties (Igwe and No. 5 pick Thompson). Either one could challenge immediately to play on the left side, where Joe Franchino, James Riley and Khano Smith, among others, filled in last year after Marshall Leonard's early-season injury. Pace is Igwe's major asset.
13. HOUSTON -- John Michael Hayden, midfielder, Indiana
Houston coach Dominic Kinnear and assistant John Spencer knew little about the versatile Hoosier midfielder before last week's combine. But they kept noticing the way Hayden always seemed to select the right pass and always seemed to be in the right spot defensively. He'll have a tough time cracking what is probably the league's most balanced midfield foursome, but he has time to develop under Kinnear and Co.
Steve Davis is a Dallas-based freelance writer who covers MLS for ESPNsoccernet. He can be reached at BigTexSoccer@yahoo.com.