With MLS Academies emerging as a bona fide route to developing MLS talent, every year brings about questions on how ready are NCAA players to make the jump to playing professionally. The reality is, each year anywhere from thirty-eight to almost fifty players enter the pool and of those, only a small handful turn into MLS-calibre competitors. However, that does not hinder the intrigue as every year graduates emerge that prove to be top shelf players and this year could be no different.
2009 is often held up as the best SuperDraft in recent memory, and that class still holds up as one of the best and most productive in league history. From first overall pick Steve Zakuani to Graham Zusi down at 23rd, there are over a dozen players in that class that have been consistent competitors in the league.
There have been a few trends over the last few years that are worth considering when looking at how the 2013 Draft goes down. The first is where the talent is coming from. Over the last five years schools such as Maryland, Akron, Indiana, Louisville, UC Santa Barbara and UCLA, to only name a few, have been constantly feeding in top level players who can make an impact from the get go. From Maurice Edu to Chris Pontius to Austin Berry, some of the best players are still coming in via the NCAA.
The other trend to watch for is the teams who have picks hovering around 8-12. While most look at the top 10 as the most coveted spots to be, over the last five years there have been players around the tenth spot that have turned out to be excellent picks. Austin Berry, Will Bruin, David Estrada, Geoge John and Roger Espinoza all have outperformed several classmen who went earlier.
What does 2013 hold? Already we have seen wheeling and dealing as Toronto FC gave up their #1 spot to New England for their #4 and allocation money. With Walker Zimmerman looking to be a bright prospect for the future, any team would be lucky to get him now and mold him into the player they need over the next few years.
Toronto FC's 3rd and 4th pick should at the very least land them one player who could contribute off the top, whether that be Andrew Farrell, Kyle Bekker or Carlos Alvarez, there are good pieces to build off of. Both Montreal and Vancouver land in the realm noted above where if they get it right, could find themselves with an impact player. With a slew of forwards, none of which are really top five picks any of the names such as Eriq Zaveleta, DeShorn Brown, Jason Johnson and Kekuta Manneh could help two teams who needed better finishing.
With all of this in mind, how have the top ten performed and where have they ended up over the last five years? Below is a list of the top ten picks from 2008 to present and how their careers have panned out.
1. Andrew Wenger – Montreal Impact - Played 23 games for Montreal, scoring 4 goals.
2. Darren Mattocks – Vancouver Whitecap – Played 21 games for Vancouver, scoring 7 goals. Finalist for Rookie of the Year.
3. Keylen Rowe – New England Revolution – Played 30 games for New England, scoring 3 goals.
4. Luis SIlva – Toronto FC – Played 30 games for Toronto FC, scoring 5 goals.
5. Casey Townsend – Chivas USA – Played 17 games for Chivas USA, scoring 1 goal.
6. Sam Garza – San Jose Earthquakes – Played 6 games for San Jose.
7. Nick DeLeon – DC United – Played 28 games for DC United, scoring 6 goals. Finalist for Rookie of the Year.
8. Andrew Jean-Baptiste – Portland Timbers – Played 5 games for Portland, loaned out to the LA Blues playing 8 games.
9. Austin Berry – Chicago Fire – Played 28 games for Chicago, scoring 3 goals. 2012 MLS Rookie of the year.
10. Ethan Finley – Columbus Crew – Played 15 games for Columbus.
Players of note after top 10: Tony Cascio, Colorado, 14th overall. Tommy Meyer, LA, 19th Overall. Ryan Meara, NYRB, 31st overall.
1. Omar Salgado – Vancouver Whitecaps - Played 21 games for Vancouver, scoring 1 goal at 19 years of age.
2. Darlington Nagbe – Portland Timbers – Played 61 games for Portland, scoring 8 goals.
3. Perry Kitchen – DC United – Played 63 games for DC United, scoring 1 goal. In running for Rookie of the Year.
4. Zarek Valentin – Chivas USA – Played 25 games for Chivas USA. Not protected in expansion draft and selected by Montreal Impact. Played 15 games for Montreal in 2012, scoring 1 goal.
5. Zac MacMath – Philadelphia Union – Played 40 games for Philadelphia.
6. A.J. Soares – New England – Played 58 games for New England, scoring 3 goals.
7. Kofi Sarkodi – Houston Dynamo – Played 17 games for Houston.
8. Michael Nanchoff – Vancouver Whitecaps – Played 13 games for Vancouver. Released after 2012 season, currently without a club.
9. Jalil Anibaba – Chicago Fire – Played 62 games for Chicago, scoring 3 goals.
10. C.J. Sapong – Kansas City – Played 65 games for KC, scoring 14 goals. Named Rookie of the Year.
Players of note after top 10: Will Bruin, Houston, 11th overall. Michael Farfan, Philadelphia, 23rd overall. Chris Korb, DC United, 31st overall. Joao Plata, Toronto FC, 49th overall.
1. Danny Mwanga – Philadelphia Union – Played 61 games for Philadelphia, scoring 12 goals. Traded to Portland in 2012, played 18 games, scoring 3 goals.
2. Tony Tchani – New York Red Bulls – Played 29 games for NYRB, was traded to TFC for Dwayne De Rosario, was traded to Columbus for Andy Iro. Has played 22 games for Columbus.
3. Ike Opara – San Jose Earthquakes – Played 35 games for San Jose, scoring 3 goals. Struggled with injuries. Traded to Kansas City in December 2012 for for second round draft pick.
4. Teal Bunbury – Kansas City Wizards – Has played 77 games for Kansas City, scoring 19 goals at 22 years of age.
5. Zach Lloyd - FC Dallas – Has played 84 games for Dallas.
6. Amobi Okugo – Philadelphia Union – Has played 53 games for Philadelphia at 21 years of age.
7. Jack McInerney – Philadelphia Union – Has played 60 games for Philadelphia, scoring 12 goals, at 20 years of age.
8. Dilly Duka – Columbus Crew – Has played 45 games for Columbus, scoring 2 goals.
9. Zack Schilawski – New England Revolution – Played 50 games for New England, scoring 6 goals. Went to Carolina Railhawks in 2012, playing 21 games, scoring 4 goals.
10. Blair Gavin – Chivas USA – Played 43 games for Chivas, scoring 3 goals. Was traded to New England for Shalrie Joseph. Played 2 games in 2012. Currently a free agent.
Players of note after top 10: Collen Warner, Real Salt Lake, 15th overall. Tim Ream, New York, 18th overall. Ben Zemanski, Chivas, 47th overall.
1. Steve Zakuani – Seattle Sounders FC – Has played 72 games for Seattle, scoring 17 goals. Suffered broken leg in 2011 that sidelined him for majority of season. Came back in 2012 to play 8 games.
2. Sam Cronin – Toronto FC – Played 33 games for Toronto FC, traded to San Jose in 2010 and has played 75 games.
3. Omar Gonzalez – Los Angeles Galaxy – Has played 101 games LA, scoring 6 goals. Won 2009 Rookie of the Year. On loan with FC Nurnberg January 2012 – tore ACL. Returned to action with LA in July 2012.
4. O'Brian White – Toronto FC – Injured for first half of 2009 season. Played 33 games for Toronto FC, scoring 4 goals. Through 2011 expansion draft, ended up with Seattle Sounders, played 7 games scoring 2 goals, went down with season ending injury. Has not played since 2011.
5. Perica Marošević – FC Dallas – Played 4 games for Dallas. Loaned out to Austin Aztex in 2010. Picked up by Toronto FC in summer of 2011, played 7 games, scoring 2 goals. Currently with NK Junak Sinj in the Croatian second division.
6. Rodney Wallace – D.C. United – Played 35 games for DC United. Scored 3 goals. In running for 2010 Rookie of the Year. Dealt to Portland Timbers for Dax McCarty. Played 44 games, scoring 3 goals. Has had 9 call-ups to the Costa Rican National Team.
7. Chris Pontius – D.C. United – Has played 101 games for DC, scoring 25 goals, 12 of which in 2012. In running for Rookie of the Year for 2009.
8. Matt Besler – Kansas City Wizards – Has played 102 games for Kansas City. 2012 MLS Defender of the Year.
9. Michael Lahoud – Chivas USA – Played 62 games for Chivas USA, scoring 2 goals. Moved to Philadelphia in 2012, played 22 games.
10. Kevin Alston – New England Revolution – Has played 111 games for New England.
Players of note after top 10: Stefan Frei, Toronto, 13th overall. George John, FC Dallas, 14th overall. AJ DeLa Garza, LA, 19th overall. Graham Zusi, Kansas City, 23rd overall. Darrius Barnes, New England, 40th overall.
1. Chance Myers – Kansas City Wizards – Has played 89 games for Kansas City. Began his career seeing limited time due to injuries.
2. Brek Shea – FC Dallas – Turned pro out of High School. Has played 98 games for FC Dallas, scoring 19 goals at 22 years of age. Has received 15 call-ups to the USMNT.
3. Tony Beltran – Real Salt Lake – Has played 110 games for Real Salt Lake.
4. Sean Franklin – Los Angeles Galaxy – 2008 Rookie of the Year. Saw limited time in 2009 due to injury. Has played 127 games for LA.
5. Ciaran O'Brien – Colorado Rapids – Has only played 1 game for Colorado. Spent time out on loan for three different USL-1 sides over three seasons. Has played 47 games for the Atlanta Silverbacks since 2011.
6. Andy Iro – Columbus Crew – Touted as top defender in draft, played 58 games for Columbus. Traded to Toronto FC in summer of 2011 for Toni Tchani. Played 13 games for TFC. Has spent a short spell at Stevenage and is currently with Barnet in England’s League Two.
7. Patrick Nyarko – Chicago Fire – Limited action in rookie season, played in all games in 2009 with 22 starts. Has since totaled 130 games and 11 goals since 2008. Received call-up to Ghana in 2012.
8. Josh Lambo – FC Dallas – Third string keeper. At 22 years of age in 2012, loaned out to FC Tampa Bay in 2010. Currently at Texas A&M playing for their football team as a placekicker.
9. Julius James – Toronto FC – Currently with Columbus Crew. Played 43 games for Columbus since 2011.
10. Pat Phelan – Toronto FC – Traded to New England. Played 80 games for the Revolution up to 2011. Currently with Finnish second-division side SJK where he played 20 games in 2012.
Players of note after top 10: Roger Espinoza, Kansas City, 11th overall. Eric Avila, Dallas, 19th overall. Geoff Cameron, Houston, 42nd overall. Steven Lenhart, Columbus, 48th overall.