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Jan 13, 2007

2007 SuperDraft grades a mixed bag

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- At the conclusion of a draft, it's usually obvious which teams won and which teams lost. Every coach may have a smile on his face, but it's easy to see which clubs did the most to fill the holes in their roster. That wasn't the case at the 2007 edition of the MLS SuperDraft held Friday in Indianapolis, where for every choice that followed the form book, there was another that made little sense.

That draft gurus Dave Sarachan of Chicago and Steve Nicol of New England made the two most surprising picks of the first round only added to the intrigue. Then you had the moves of the Los Angeles Galaxy, whose two first round picks netted them a full allocation. Still, they failed to add any depth at fullback, which was one of their bigger needs.

It all made for a schizophrenic day, but through it all there were some teams whose moves shined through.

Got Immediate Help

Toronto FC

Coach Mo Johnston did his homework and then some in adding four players to his roster. The selection of Maurice Edu with the top pick surprised no one, and the Maryland product should be an early contributor to Toronto's fortunes this year. But Johnston's biggest coup was prizing away the 10th pick from Los Angeles for a partial allocation, and then using it to take New Mexico center back Andrew Boyens.

"Toronto was in a position where they needed to bring in guys who could play right away," said one MLS head coach. "I think with their first two picks they addressed that."

Boyens had been threatening to ply his trade in Australia, in part because of his girlfriend's inability to get a work visa in North America. But Johnston got assurances from Boyens' agent that he would play in MLS, so he pulled the trigger.

"We're very confident we can sign [Boyens]," Johnston said. "His agent called me and he's actually spoken to him, and he's very excited."

Johnston filled out his selections by acquiring Canadians Rich Asante and Jeff Gonsalves. For many, Asante was drafted only because he's Canadian, while several coaches were surprised that Gonsalves lasted until the 4th round.

Colorado

This was a good draft for Colorado that has the potential to be great. It's good because the Rapids acquired Virginia midfielder Nico Colaluca, a quality wide midfielder, with their first round selection. Head coach Fernando Clavijo then gambled with his 2nd round pick, selecting Greg Dalby. While there is no doubting the Notre Dame midfielder's talent, his interest in exploring European options could result in the pick being wasted.

"It's a calculated risk," said Clavijo. "But this is the job, to take chances on good players. Hopefully we can make [Dalby] come to Colorado."

Colorado also made a significant trade, dealing two 2nd round picks to Dallas for defender Greg Vanney. Add in forward Omar Cummings from Cincinnati, midfielder Nick LaBrocca from Rutgers, and goalkeeper Justin Hughes from North Carolina, and Clavijo has succeeded in addressing most of his team's weak areas.

Dallas

New head coach Steve Morrow looks to have scored with his picks, a sentiment shared by some of the Hoops' opponents.

"I thought Dallas came out extremely well," said one MLS head coach. "They came out with some good players, players that I rated."

Among those performers was Anthony Wallace, who was projected to be in the top five, but who fell into Morrow's lap at No. 9. Wallace is versatile, but Morrow sees him as a central midfielder in the mold of Houston's Ricardo Clark.

The selection of Abdus Ibrahim at No. 14 seemed a bit of a stretch, given that he is more of a long-term project. FCD were also able to grab a few players who impressed at the combine, namely Brown University forward Andrew Daniels, San Diego forward Ryan Guy and Jacksonville forward Tommy Krizanovic. UNC-Greensboro midfielder Scott Jones, a player about whom there are widely differing opinions, was selected in the third round.

Solid Showing

Columbus

Coach Sigi Schmid didn't have many picks in the draft, but that didn't stop him from addressing one of his most pressing needs, that of revamping his front line. The Crew manager dealt the second overall pick and Ryan Coiner to Chicago for Andy Herron, a proven MLS forward. He then acquired Cal-Irvine forward Brad Evans, San Francisco forward Aaron Chandler, and North Carolina forward Ben Hunter. Evan's selection was perhaps the "get" of the draft, with more than one coach, aside from Schmid, telling me how surprised they were that Evans lasted that long.

"I think we got fortunate that [Evans] ended up hurting himself a little bit in the first game of the combine, so he didn't play the last two games," Schmid said. "He's a very versatile player."

Left back remains a pressing need for the Crew, and Schmid said that had they gone that route, they would have taken Anthony Wallace, but Schmid had doubts about Wallace's ability to play there right away. Instead the Crew manager will look within his own roster and mentioned Marc Burch as a possibility. He may also look abroad.

D.C. United

United's acquisition of midfielder Bryan Arguez was clearly a case of taking the best player available rather than addressing need, but given the calmness on the ball that the U-20 international displays, it's a solid selection.

"[Arguez] is a kid with special qualities," said United head coach Tom Soehn. "He's a big kid with good feet. He can pull off some special plays and he's got a big engine."

United's second round selection of Northwestern forward Brad North was a bit of a surprise, but North's size at 6-foot-1, and the 19 goals he scored as a junior undoubtedly caught the eye. The Black-and-Red were also fortunate to see SMU defender Jay Needham slide to them at No. 32. Needham is a talented, technical player, although there are concerns about whether he has the speed to play in a three-back system.

United rounded out the day selecting Georgetown forward Ricky Schramm and Portland goalkeeper Luis Robles.

Los Angeles

Several coaches hailed the work of Galaxy head coach Frank Yallop in Friday's draft. The Galaxy acquired the equivalent of a full allocation by dealing both of their first round picks and then used a trio of second round selections to get Oregon State forward Robbie Findley, Indiana midfielder Josh Tudela, and Washington defender Ty Harden. Findley, who was a potential first round pick, was an excellent pickup.

One rather large gap that remains is the situation at full back, which given the crowded international calendar this summer, could see the Galaxy without Chris Albright, Ante Jazic, Quavas Kirk, and Nathan Sturgis for extended periods. That leaves only Troy Roberts with any meaningful MLS experience, although the allocation that the Galaxy acquired may yet see them use part of it on a veteran fullback.

Los Angeles finished out the day selecting San Diego State goalkeeper Tally Hall and Loyola forward Bobby Burling.

New York

Another team that made the most of what few picks they had. Coach Bruce Arena's acquisition of Dave van den Berg from Kansas City was perhaps the steal of the weekend, given that the player only cost the Red Bulls a third round supplemental pick.

The Red Bulls first selection didn't come until No. 19, where Clemson product Dane Richards was chosen. Richards is a player rumored to be looking at Europe, so Arena will need to move quickly in order to make his pick count. Sinisa Ubiparipovic from Akron is another talented attacker, although it's been said that his defensive frailties mean he can only play offensive midfield in a 3-5-2 formation.

Mixed Bag

Kansas City

Another team with few picks, the Wizards did well by nabbing North Carolina fullback Michael Harrington. A left-footed player by trade, Harrington is projected to start at right back by head coach Curt Onalfo. But as happy as the Kansas City manager was with his first selection, he was even more pleased to nab Old Dominion forward Edson Elcock.

"We had [Elcock] rated quite high," Onalfo said. "We thought he'd go in the first or second round. He didn't have a great combine, but we'd seen him many times."

The Wizards' coach rounded out the day by selecting Kurt Morsink out of James Madison, but as solid as his selections might have been, his pre-draft trade of winger Dave van den Bergh for New York's 3rd round pick in the Supplemental Draft is a head-scratcher. Regardless of the reason for moving him, getting such a pick seems to be poor value for a player who cost the Wizards a partial allocation just seven months ago.

Real Salt Lake

Given that RSL had just acquired Nick Rimando, the selection of Maryland goalkeeper Chris Seitz didn't make sense. That is until RSL general manager Steve Pastorino explained that Rimando, "won't be RSL property for much longer," and will likely be traded within a week. Head coach John Ellinger stated that Seitz, who will miss about a month of the season due to his expected involvement with the U-20 World Cup, will be Scott Garlick's understudy this season, but that he'll "push Garlick hard."

Yet the draft saw Ellinger fail to address his most pressing need, that of shoring up his defense. Ellinger stated that Nik Besagno will see more time this year, and that RSL is in negotiations to acquire Kaiserslautern defender Chris Lancos, whom they chose in last year's Supplemental Draft. The return of Danny Torres could help as well, but it all adds up to a lot of uncertainty along RSL's back line.

Wake Forest midfielder Steve Curfman was Real's final selection, and a late trade saw RSL acquire former New England midfielder Kyle Brown.

Chivas USA

The Goats didn't have many selections, so they still have some holes to fill. But in selecting Fort Lewis College product John Cunliffe, they obtained a versatile performer who can play anywhere in the attack.

"Cunliffe is the guy who fit our needs," said Preki, who many think will be Chivas' next head coach. "He's a very clever player. He knows how to play the game and I think he's going to fit very well with our guys."

In their only other selection of the day, the team acquired Cal-Irvine defender Cameron Dunn, but in a late day trade, Chivas obtained former U.S. U-17 international David Arvizu for a 4th round pick in this year's supplemental draft. While there are plenty of doubts about whether Arvizu will ever fulfill the promise he showed with the U-17s, the draft pick Chivas gave up is a small price to pay.

Houston

The Dynamo's draft didn't have the wow factor of other teams, but they did succeed in addressing their needs, however minimal they were. Head coach Dominic Kinnear's selection of Indiana midfielder John Michael Hayden was surprising, but the Houston manager loved Hayden's calmness on the ball and clean passing.

"Hayden is very simple with the way he plays the ball and he never loses possession," said Kinnear. "He fits in with the way we like to play; really unselfish with good movement off the ball."

Houston then added some speed to the outside of midfield with the selection of North Carolina's Corey Ashe before acquiring a possible diamond-in-the-rough with South Carolina utility man Mike Sambursky. With the last pick in the draft, Kinnear selected Cal midfielder Eric Ebert.

Say What?

New England

One begins to wonder if head coach Steve Nicol has been reading too many of his own press clippings, at least as it relates to the draft. When New England traded up to get the fifth pick, nearly everyone in attendance thought he would take Colaluca. Instead, he made the startling choice of Wake Forest product Wells Thompson, a player who was on virtually no one's top-10 list. Last year Nicol made a similar move, taking unheralded Leandro de Oliveira with the ninth pick, and the rookie was out of the league by August.

Nicol made amends with his second selection, getting highly touted defender/midfielder Amaechi Igwe from Santa Clara, and rounded off the day taking another Wake Forest product in Ryan Solle, Cal-Santa Barbara midfielder Bryan Byrne, and Duke defender Kyle Helton. Byrne, an Irish citizen, could be a potential sleeper pick

Chicago

As surprising as Nicol's choice of Thompson was, it was topped by Dave Sarachan's shocking decision to take UAB forward Jerson Monteiro with the eighth pick. Prior to the draft, some speculated that Monteiro wouldn't even be selected, yet Sarachan is hoping that the UAB product will be the player to revamp the right side of his midfield. We'll see.

Sarachan's choice of Virginia defender Bakary Soumare was more conventional, giving the Fire a talented central defender with plenty of upside. Chicago also nabbed a potential up-and-comer with Notre Dame midfielder Nate Norman, and rounded out his day by grabbing Southern Illinois-Edwardsville midfielder Mike Banner and Penn State forward Simon Omekanda.

Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPNsoccernet. He can be reached at eljefe1@yahoo.com.