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Jan 12, 2010

Mwanga solidified as the No. 1 overall pick

The 2010 MLS SuperDraft isn't as loaded with potential rookie starters as the 2009 draft, but this year's class features some players who are drawing far more pre-draft excitement than any players from last year. Unlike last year, when rumors swirled of potential trades involving the No. 1 overall pick, the suspense over this year's top pick is nonexistent because the Philadelphia Union have already agreed to terms with Oregon State forward Danny Mwanga. The reality is there is tangible excitement over what the New York Red Bulls will do and whether they will select Wake Forest standout defender Ike Opara or Virginia midfield ace Tony Tchani. While Opara has long been regarded as a potential No. 1 pick, it is Tchani who has teams throughout the league buzzing at his size, skill and vast potential. Here is how we see the first round of Thursday's 2010 MLS SuperDraft shaking out: 1. Philadelphia Union -- Danny Mwanga, Forward, Oregon State The Union scouted Mwanga early and pegged him as a dangerous striker with freakish speed and skill. With a contract rumored to be worth $200,000 a season, Mwanga will be under pressure to perform right away. 2. New York Red Bulls -- Tony Tchani, Midfielder, Virginia The Red Bulls had long been expected to grab Opara to help the club's dire defensive issues, but Tchani has the look of a franchise midfielder, making the decision a tough one. Opara makes a bit more sense as far as need, but Tchani ultimately proves too good to pass up. Don't rule out a deal being made for this pick because several teams absolutely love Tchani. 3. San Jose Earthquakes -- Ike Opara, Defender, Wake Forest The Earthquakes could use a striker like Teal Bunbury, but ultimately it will be too tough to pass on Opara, a freakishly athletic center back who is just 20 but already boasts better tools than many MLS defenders. Another factor that could affect Opara's stock is that he's considering staying in school till May.

2010 MLS SuperDraft
Jan. 14
Convention Center, Philadelphia
2 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN360.com
4. Kansas City Wizards -- Teal Bunbury, Forward, Akron The Wizards could have used Tchani but will be happy to take Bunbury, a fast and big striker who also happens to be the son of former Wizard Alex Bunbury. Also 20, Bunbury has shown some flaws in his finishing, but his top gear is impressive and his size/speed combo will fit in well with the Wizards' other forwards. 5. FC Dallas (from Toronto) -- Corben Bone, Midfielder, Wake Forest Coach Schellas Hyndman doesn't really need more young players, but Bone is a special talent who also happens to be from the Dallas area. A playmaker who makes things easy for his teammates, Bone didn't have the best combine but his talent is undeniable. 6. FC Dallas -- Zach Loyd, Midfielder, North Carolina While Tchani wowed scouts, Loyd left plenty of teams impressed at the combine with his versatility and ability to excel no matter where he was played. A defensive midfielder by trade, Loyd can play at right back and in central defense. He's as MLS-ready a player as there is in the draft. 7. D.C. United -- Amobi Okugo, Midfielder, UCLA The coach Curt Onalfo era promises to feature attacking soccer, but this pick will be a defensive midfielder. Okugo's size, strength and technical ability are truly impressive for an 18-year-old. D.C. could grab Dilly Duka -- and drive New York Red Bulls fans crazy since Duka is a Red Bull academy product -- but Okugo helps fill the void left by Ben Olsen's retirement and Andrew Jacobsen's departure to Philadelphia. 8. Columbus Crew (from Colorado) -- Dilly Duka, Midfielder, U.S. U-20 The Crew would prefer to move up and land Tchani or Bunbury, but with both long gone, the Crew can focus on a skillful and tough central midfielder with great promise. A creative attacking player who isn't afraid to defend and deliver tackles, Duka showed enough creativity at the combine to move into the top 10. 9. New England Revolution -- Toni Stahl, Midfielder, Connecticut The Revs could use a forward, but disappointing combine performances among the draft's top forwards are likely to make them think about other needs. One potential problem is Revs midfielder Jeff Larentowicz's possible departure for Europe this offseason (he is out of contract). Stahl could step in and replace Larentowicz, giving the Revs a player who isn't as tough but who may be more technically gifted than Larentowicz. 10. Chivas USA -- Blair Gavin, Midfielder, Akron While central defense is more of a need, Chivas USA will be hard-pressed to pass on a skilled and promising young holding midfielder in Gavin, who is a smooth facilitator with good upside. 11. Seattle Sounders -- Jack McInerney, Forward, U.S. U-17 The Sounders could use depth at forward and will need to choose between McInerney and Cal striker Andrew Wiedeman. With Wiedeman disappointing at the combine, look for coach Sigi Schmid to grab a 17-year-old striker who looked very comfortable playing against older players at the combine. 12. Columbus Crew -- Andrew Wiedeman, Forward, California The Crew could look elsewhere for a replacement for Alejandro Moreno but will be happy to find Wiedeman this late. Coming off a disappointing showing at the combine, Wiedeman could thrive in the Crew attack. 13. Chicago Fire -- Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Defender, Connecticut The Fire have some serious offseason moves brewing, so it's tough to project what they will do here. A forward or right winger could help, but Chicago needs some depth in central defense and Watson-Siriboe has established himself as the second-best center back in this draft. 14. New York Red Bulls (via Houston) -- Austin Da Luz, Midfielder, Wake Forest After taking Tchani with their first pick, the Red Bulls could be tempted to grab a center back next. However, with none rated this highly, the Red Bulls grab Da Luz, a creative midfielder who could play on the left flank or in a playmaking role. The Red Bulls could also trade up from this spot to try to add Duka. 15. Los Angeles Galaxy -- Zack Schilawski, Forward, Wake Forest The Galaxy added three young Brazilian players this winter, which could be called its own draft haul, but Los Angeles can still use some depth at forward and Schilawski can provide just that. The Wake Forest product is quick, intelligent and a good finisher. 16. Real Salt Lake -- Andre Akpan, Forward, Harvard The defending champion will be happy to find Akpan fall this far, which is a possibility after the Harvard striker's disappointing combine showing. If Akpan isn't around, look for Real Salt Lake to add the best forward available, or potentially a midfielder like local product Kyle Nakazawa from UCLA.

Ives Galarcep covers MLS for ESPNsoccernet. He also writes a blog, Soccer By Ives. He can be reached at Ivespn79@aol.com.

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