MLS / Union

Mwanga, Opara or Bunbury for Union?

Mock drafts are a mockery, so you won’t get one from me.

But you will get an exploration the top prospects available to Philadelphia Union when they make their first amateur draft pick on Jan. 14 at the Major League Soccer SuperDraft here in Philadelphia.

Ike Opara

The Union own the first pick in each of the draft’s four rounds, including the top pick overall.

Wake Forest defender Ike Opara comes in as, according to many, the top player in the draft. The junior out of Wake Forest has starred both for one of the nation’s best college soccer programs and played as a youth international. He has size, speed, and the on-field performance to draw the eyes of MLS scouts.

The question is whether Union manager Peter Nowak and assistant coach John Hackworth want to take a run at yet another defender. If there are any positions the team seems to have locked up right now, it’s the defense, with occasional U.S. international Danny Califf joining two players who started for their MLS teams last season, Shavar Thomas and Jordan Harvey.

That may be why some are predicting the Union will go for Oregan State forward Danny Mwanga or Akron forward Teal Bunbury.

Danny Mwanga

So far, the Union don’t have much in the attacking department. Alejandro Moreno looks slotted in at one forward position, but the other is wide open, with basically no depth yet on the roster.

Opara, Bunbury and Mwanga have all signed with MLS Generation Adidas, according to Soccer by Ives, though the league has confirmed only Bunbury’s signing.

Opara may be the most pro-ready in many eyes, and he may have been the first player picked if he came out last year. For a brand new team like the Union, it’s hard to argue with choosing the best players, regardless of position. Thomas and Harvey may be here today, but as proven MLS starters, they could be gone tomorrow in trades for attacking players.

Teal Bunbury

Some say the Union covet Mwanga, but we’ll see. If there’s any one thing Nowak and Hackworth showed during the expansion draft, it’s that few can predict exactly what these guys will do. You won’t find many who predicted many of the players they took then. (Shea Salinas and Chris Seitz, acquired via trade, were the ones among the first 11 that most guessed.) We know they have gone for multiple players they’ve seen firsthand through their work with the U.S. international teams, but in this build-from-scratch exercise, they’re still early enough in the process that it’s hard to predict.

So my prediction?

Look for another surprise. (And yes, that’s a cop-out.)

Who do you think the Union should take? Do you think they should go for the best player overall, or should they draft for holes in the roster? Weigh in below in the Comments section.

(For a good look at more top prospects, check out Buzz Carrick’s rundown for ESPN.)

No Comments

  1. The Union are in need of talent outside of the backline. Depending on who you listen to, any of the top 5 prospects (supposedly Tchani, Bone, Opara, Mwanga, Bunbury) could go #1. More than one team in the top five picks is reportedly interested in Opara. Find a way to trade down within the top five to make sure you get one of these midfield or forward prospects, and deal Opara for the pick and a proven player. Opara may be the best player in the draft, but, as you said, if theres one position the Union are currently deep at, its CB.

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