MLS

SuperDraft preview: The top prospects

Featured image: Courtesy of Golden Bear Sports

With just two days until Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber takes to the podium at the Pennsylvania Convention Center and announces that D.C. United are on the clock, lets review five of the top prospects available for selection at the 2014 MLS SuperDraft.

The Union sit in prime position to select some of these incredibly talented college players. Which of these players would you like to see in a Union kit in 2014? Let us know in the comments section.

Steve Birnbaum. Courtesy of goldenbearsports.com

Steve Birnbaum. Photo: Courtesy of goldenbearsports.com

Steve Birnbaum

The University of California center back is the most MLS ready prospect in the 2014 SuperDraft. The senior captain of the Cal Bears started 19 matches and scored 10 goals (yes, you read that correctly) en route to earning All PAC-12 First Team and All-American honors in 2013. The 6’2″ native of Irvine, California possesses all the tools to be successful at the next level and has the ability to start the season opener for most MLS teams.

Why should the Union draft Birnbaum?

OK, we know Union fans might look at a player labeled “the most MLS ready player in the draft” with a bit of skepticism. However, Birnbaum starred for one of the best college soccer teams in the country while playing in one of the most competitive conferences in college soccer. With the uncertainty still surrounding Carlos Valdes, the Union have just two center backs on the roster. Should injury or suspension befall Amobi Okugo or Jeff Parke, Birnbaum would be able to immediately slide in to Philadelphia’s back four.

Andre Blake. Photo: Courtesy of NCAA.com

Andre Blake. Photo: Courtesy of NCAA.com

Andre Blake

Blake is having a monster combine and has some of the national soccer media saying he’s the best goalkeeping prospect to enter the draft in some time. The University of Connecticut goalkeeper is an amazing athlete and has lightning fast reflexes, which have been on display for all the MLS coaches to see at the combine.

The 6’4″ Jamaican goalkeeper is a three time conference Goalkeeper of the Year, taking home Big East honors in 2011 and 2012 and the American Athletic Conference honors in 2013. The stats back up the accolades as the projected first round pick allowed just 17 goals in 21 matches this season while posting 10 clean sheets. In his UConn career, Blake has kept 37 shut outs over 68 career starts.

For an MLS franchise looking for a franchise goalkeeper, Blake is the man for the job.

Why should the Union draft Blake?

Not happening. With the emergence of Zac MacMath as a bona fide starting goalkeeper and Union Academy grad Zach Steffen waiting in the wings at the University of Maryland, it’s hard to see the Union using one of their two first round picks on Andre Blake. John Hackworth and the Union have too many other holes to be filled at picks #2 and #6.

Christian Dean. Photo: Courtesy of goldenbearsports.com

Christian Dean. Photo: Courtesy of goldenbearsports.com

Christian Dean

If you’ve been reading the assortment of mock drafts in the run-up to the SuperDraft, you know that the consensus seems to be that the Union will select the California center back with the second pick in the Thursday’s draft.

Dean is worthy of such high praise. The 6’3″ defender signed a Generation Adidas contract and immediately shot up most draft boards. The left footed center back has a unique combination of skill and athletic ability that has generated tremendous buzz as the draft approached. MLS scouts feel that Dean projects to be the player with the most upside in this draft. Though he’s more comfortable at the center back position, the Cal defender could slide out to left back to start his career in Major League Soccer.

Why should the Union draft Dean?

Dean is likely to be the Union’s choice with the second pick for two reasons. First, the big defender provides the Union’s defensive unit with depth and versatility. Dean could step in and challenge Ray Gaddis for the starting left back position as well as provide important cover for Okugo and Parke. Should Coach Hackworth choose to push Okugo into the Union’s midfield, Dean immediately slots in to his preferred center back position next to Parke.

Second, Dean signed a Generation Adidas contract and as such, his salary will not count against the Union’s salary budget.

Patrick Mullins. Photo: Courtesy of terrrapinstationmd.com

Patrick Mullins. Photo: Courtesy of terrrapinstationmd.com

Patrick Mullins

College soccer’s best player for the past two seasons is about to take a big step into the professional ranks. The two-time Hermann trophy winner is likely a top five pick in this draft and could be the number one pick should D.C. United want to add the Maryland Terrapins star forward to their much improved offense.

This year’s NCAA College Cup Final Four at PPL Park was the Patrick Mullins Show. The All-American forward showed why he’s considered the best player in the country with three classy strikes for the Terps. Mullins displayed his killer instinct around the goal with a masterful chip for the Terrapins first goal in the semifinal match against Virginia. His second goal of the match was even better, smashing home a volleyed shot to punch Maryland’s ticket to the National Championship match. In the Championship Game against Notre Dame, Mullins remained cool in the box as the ball ricocheted to his feet and he buried his shot to give Maryland a first half lead.

The senior forward from New Orleans, Louisiana has 44 goals and 25 assist over his highly decorated collegiate career. Mullins is supremely confident on the ball and will apply relentless pressure on defenders.

Why should the Union draft Mullins?

The Union need players that know how to find the back of the net and Mullins is a predator once he gets near an opponent’s penalty area. Too much of the scoring burden fell to Jack McInerney and Conor Casey in 2013. When they went cold, so did the Union. The All-American is as pure a goal scorer as there is in this draft class.

Much like Steve Neumann, there are some questions as to where Mullins might play in MLS. That’s not a bad thing in Philadelphia, as Coach Hackworth like versatile players.

Schillo Tshuma. Photo: Courtesy of futbolmls.net

Schillo Tshuma. Photo: Courtesy of futbolmls.net

Schillo Tshuma

Tshuma signed with the league as a member of Generation Adidas following two solid years at the University of Maryland. The sophomore forward is one of the most electrifying players available in this draft. Tshuma has speed to burn and will help a club looking for help on the wing. The All-ACC Second Team forward’s work rate is tremendous, his hustle will trouble MLS defenders. A pure athlete, most scouts feel that the Maryland product has the most upside of any offensive player in the draft.

The native of Zimbabwe was a key contributor to a Maryland side that won back-to-back ACC Conference Tournaments and booked consecutive trips to the College Cup Final Four. Following a breakout freshman season the saw the speedster tally ten goals, Tshuma had a down year in 2013, scoring six goals and recording just one assist.

Why might the Union draft Tshuma? 

If Coach Hackworth and his technical are looking for a dynamic wing to fit into a 4-3-3 formation, Tshuma is that player. The Generation Adidas tag will be attractive to the Union, both in terms of salary budget relief and allowing the still raw Tshuma time to refine his game at the professional level.

 

18 Comments

  1. Parke is gone…do your thoughts on the draft change?

    • For me yes. If Parke was still on the roster, I would be more inclined to snag Dean. Now that he’s gone, I think Birnbaum is the better choice. More likely to challenge White for a starting spot.
      .
      For all the complaints Union fans had regarding Gaddis at LB, he was easily a top 5 LB in the league last season.

      • They may still roll the dice on a White/Dean competition. With all the talent those two have, one of them ought to be able to start this season.

        They can also move Sheanon inside and put Gaddis on the right if needed, and we can go back to moaning about a left back.

      • Agree with Neal . . I think Dean ahead of Birnbaum. The GA tag is so valuable, plus Dean’s upside may be greater than Birnbaum’s. Live with White starting the season slowly working Dean in and maybe playing LB in a few games.

    • Ryan Sanders says:

      I think the Union have to go with the best available Center Back that is available. If Birnbaum is there then you go with him but I don’t see D.C. United letting him slide which means Christian Dean is your newest member of the Blue and Gold.

  2. Great stuff, Sean. I enjoyed both parts.

    If you were the Union, who would you want to pick in those spots? More specifically, do you go for the centerback first and take the risk that one of your attacking targets will be there at 6 or vice versa?

    I just don’t have the sense of what the drop off is from Birnbaum & Dean to Cochran & Lowe in the centerback position.

    • Excellent questions George!

      – If I’m selecting for the Union, I grab one of the CB prospects at #2 knowing one of Neumann, Mullins or Ribeiro will be available at #6. I’d prefer the Union grab Birnbaum over Dean. Right now, he’s a more complete player than Dean. That being said, Dean is GA and has a ton of potential. If you have the #2 pick, you use it to make your team better now. Potential has a tendancy to get coaches fired.

      – I can’t speak about Cochran, I haven’t seen enough about him, but what I would say is that Dean and Lowe are very comparable. Questions surround Lowe because he played at a small school, but while at Reading he was always one of the best two or three players on the field.
      Here’s a highlight video for Lowe:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6ic8l4_bQs&list=TLEdaarI7BdkytJBfvyz4Tpzs3gF2LJjdD

      • I completely agree w/ drafting either Neumann, Mullins, or Ribeiro @ #6. I think you can’t go wrong with any of those three.
        .
        I especially think that Ribeiro could be a good fit for a 4-3-3 should the Union choose to go that route.

      • Thanks, Sean. I agree with you.

  3. I’m sorry, I’m sure NEumann and Mullins have talent, but I still can’t get over the whole “what position will they play duhduhduh!?!” question surrounding them.

    Not only have we had that problem in the past plenty of times, but I am not so sure this is the level they should be figuring that out.

    • I’m with you Pedro Ribeiro is a CAM so why reach for guys who may not play there as naturally. plus I don’t know if you’ve seen Ribeiro up close, but having seen him at Reading the guy is massive . . . like Vincent Kompany size massive, no joke. It’s amazing a guy that size is so good with the ball at his feet.

  4. Blake is the only guy in a diluted draft that people think is a legitimately a game-changing prospect. He’s rated head and shoulders above everyone else so I wouldn’t count on him to fall.

    Also it sounds like Neumann hasn’t lived up to expectations at the combine, FWIW.

    • Neal,

      Sure Neumann hasn’t lived up to expectations at the combine, but he played three years under Coach Burke with Reading. He is familiar with the Union system and personally I think Neumann could be the attacking mid the union need.

    • I would think the combine environment is a disadvantage to any creative midfielder. Neumann is going to be a guy that thrives on creativity so team chemistry is a must. It’s pretty difficult to have chemistry with a group of strangers in a scrimmage.
      .
      I wouldn’t put too much stock into his combine performance.

  5. John O'Donnell says:

    If DC takes Mullins you might want to trade the number two pick. I just think that the Revs would love to get Blake and the second pick for #4 & #12 gets you a whole lot more. Gives you an opportunity to grab Dean/Birnbaum with the #4 and Holness/Ribeiro/Hairston at #6. This might leave Lowe/Sweat/Neumann if we get lucky at #12. The #2 pick has value as almost every mock draft has Blake going number three to Vancouver. The fact that he played his college career at Connecticut could play well in New England & he is the top prospect in the Draft.

  6. Pingback: Report says league balking at Edu to Union, on the Parke-White trade, Valdes update, draft news, more

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*