The 2011 draft class is simply put, loaded. MLS coaches and scouts are drooling over the talent of a deep and talented group of players with tons of potential. As always many of the players are young so they may take some time to develop, but the draft pool gets better and better each year. Several likely draftees gained the attention of foreign scouts and were linked to moves overseas.
1. Vancouver – MID Perry Kitchen, University of Akron. Kitchen is hands-down the top pick in the draft. Earlier linked with Anderlecht, this player has unlimited potential. He could be the next great American midfielder and eventually join other Yanks overseas in England. Kitchen excelled in the nation’s best program as a freshman, amazing. Huge upside.
2. Portland – DEF Kofi Sarkodie, University of Akron. Portland can’t go wrong with this pick, Soccer America’s Player of the Year for 2010. Expansion teams should be built around a solid defense and Sarkodie is the best all-around defender in the draft. A can’t miss pick for the Timbers, Sarkodie finished the 2010 season with 8 goals and 6 assists. Versatile player.
3. D.C. United – FWD Darlington Nagbe, University of Akron. United’s cupboards are bare. Aside from teen phenom Andy Najar, the 2010 season was a big bust. Nagbe would be an instant scoring threat and would do well paired with new acquisitions Joseph Ngwenya and Josh Wolff. There is little depth at the forward position with the release of Danny Allsopp and the retirement of Jaime Moreno.
4. Chivas USA – DEF Zarek Valentin, University of Akron. Everyone assumes that Omar Salgado will be the choice here at number 4. Salgado has ties to Chivas de Guadalajara, but the club needs someone to replace Jonathan Bornstein and Sacha Kljestan. Valentin is a safe pick here early in the draft. Don’t be surprised to see Chivas reach to draft Anthony Ampaipitakwon, someone with creativity and pizazz to fill a need left by Kljestan.
5. Philadelphia Union – GK Zac MacMath, University of Maryland. Everyone thinks the Union will select local product Corey Hertzog. No chance. They already have a nice pair of young strikers in Danny Mwanga and Jack McInerney. We actually have IU forward Will Bruin rated higher than the Reading native anyways. The Union will solve their goalkeeping woes by selecting the best keeper in a deep class. I know that Faryd Mondragon has been linked to Philadelphia for over a month, but he is a short-term solution at the age of 39. The run on U of A players is over.
6. New England Revolution – FWD Will Bruin, Indiana University. Enter the replacement for Revs legend Taylor Twellman, who recently retired due to concussion issues. Bruin will be given time to grow and develop alongside midfielder Shalrie Joseph, one of the best in MLS. The IU product has been on the radar of MLS scouts for some time.
7. Houston Dynamo – FWD Corey Hertzog, Penn State University. Dominic Kinnear was looking for a striker and he gets a good one in Hertzog, who some rate as the top forward in the draft. The youngster will certainly learn from veteran Brian Ching, who isn’t getting any younger.
8. Vancouver Whitecaps – DEF A.J. Soares, University of California. Vancouver adds some bite to the defense with this senior defender. A can’t miss pick at #8. Vancouver has built a strong nucleus with Kitchen and Soares.
9. Chicago Fire – DEF Jalil Anibaba, University of North Carolina. Gone are Wilman Conde and C.J. Brown. The Fire need help in defense and Anababa fills a need. Could be paired with promising youngster Kwame Watson-Siriboe and veterans Gonzalo Segares and Dasan Robinson.
10. Sporting K.C. – DEF J.T. Murray, University of Louisville. Kansas City needs defenders period. They may have to reach and draft strictly on need. Shavar Thomas, Birahim Diop, Nick Kounenakis, and Matt Besler are not going to strike fear into anyone’s attack.
11. Seattle Sounders – FWD Omar Salgado, U.S. U-20. Seattle can find a goalkeeper later in the draft to groom behind Kasey Keller. That is their only pressing need so they can draft for value. They can’t pass up Omar Salgado and may even dangle him as trade bait or give him time to develop into Blaise Nkufo’s replacement. Salgado falling this far is the biggest surprise in the entire draft.
12. Columbus Crew – MID Anthony Ampaipitakwon, University of Akron. The Crew can’t pass on this talented midfielder. The loss of Adam Moffat and Brian Carroll doesn’t hurt so much with the development of Dilly Duka and the drafting of Ampaipitakwon.
13. New York Red Bulls – MID Michael Nanchoff, University of Akron. The final Generation Adidas signee will certainly fall late in the first round. A selection here makes sense for New York, who could use some help on the wings. One MLS scout told us that Nanchoff was the best player on the field at the College Cup.
14. Real Salt Lake – FWD Ashley McInnes, University of Tulsa. Versatility is the name of the game for McInnes. Alvario Saborio needs a partner upfront and McInnes can fill that need and help out in the midfield as well. Losing Robbie Findley to Nottingham Forest seems like a big deal, but he had a rough 2010 club season and can easily be replaced. Losing Nick Rimando or Kyle Beckerman would have been much worse.
15. San Jose Earthquakes- MID Michael Farfan, University of North Carolina. The Quakes will get good value with their pick, getting a creative midfielder late in the first round. The senior standout has the potential to develop into an everyday starter who can be relied upon in the attack.
16. Los Angeles Galaxy- MID John Rooney, England. I am going out on quite a limb here, but LA often does just the same. Maybe this is the first step in bringing in big brother Wayne to MLS in 2015. The Galaxy have the luxury of taking a risk since their team is so deep at every position. The Galaxy have no immediate needs, especially with today’s signing of veteran defender Frankie Hejduk.
17. FC Dallas – FWD Justin Meram, University of Michigan. The loss of Jeff Cunningham makes this a smart pick. Meram could easily go higher, but this is a deep class at the striker position. Expect Maryland’s Jason Herrick to also get a look.
18. Colorado Rapids – FWD Jason Herrick, University of Maryland. Colorado could easily move up with some wheeling and dealing, but there is great value even with the final pick in the first round. An elite player is likely to fall to the Rapids, who may be in need of a striker if overseas interest in Omar Cummings continues. Personally I feel that the Jamaican international is the best forward in all of MLS and his loss would leave a huge hole in the Rapids attack.
Our own Derrick Smith will be on the ground at the 2011 MLS Combine to give us the latest news and notes regarding the 2011 MLS SuperDraft to be held in Baltimore, Maryland. There are always surprising performances at any combine so we will be there to bring you up to speed.
2011 ADIDAS MLS PLAYER COMBINE LIST BY POSITION
GOALKEEPERS (5): Bryan Meredith (Monmouth); Jeff Attinella (University of South Florida); Jimmy Maurer (South Carolina); Joe Willis (University of Denver); Josh Ford (UConn)
DEFENDERS (17): A.J. Soares (California); Bilal Duckett (Notre Dame); Bobby Warshaw (Stanford); Christopher Korb (Akron); Colin Givens (Michigan State); Curtis Ushedo (UAB); Demitrius Omphroy (California); Eddie Ababio (UNC); Greg Klazura (Notre Dame); Greg King (UConn); Indy Smith (UNC Wilmington); Jalil Anibaba (UNC); JT Murray (Louisville); Juan Cruz (SMU); Michael Boxall (UCSB); Rich Balchan (Indiana); Tyler Lassiter (North Carolina State)
Midfielders (21): Anthony Ampaipitakwong (Akron); Blake Brettschneider (South Carolina); Cole Grossman (Duke); Daniel Keat (Dartmouth); Dustin McCarty(UNC); Ernesto Carranza (Sacramento State); Guillermo Cortes (Maryland); Hector Jimenez (California); Jimmy Banks (Green Bay); John Brovsky (Notre Dame); Jon Okafor (Brown); Josue Soto(SMU); Karl Reddick (Boston College); Konrad Warzycha (Ohio State); Lebogang Pila (St. Peter’s College); Matheus Braga (Penn State); Matt Gold (Ohio State); Michael Farfan (UNC); Servando Carrasco (California); Stephen McCarthy (UNC); Tommy Drake (Clemson)
Forwards (11): Amani Walker (UCI); Ashley McInnes (Tulsa); Brayan Martinez (Seton Hall University); C.J. Sapong (James Madison); Davis Paul (California); Efrain Burgoes (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo), Jason Herrick (Maryland); Justin Meram (Michigan); Levi Houapev (UMBC); Philip Bannister (Loyola University Maryland); Steven Perry (Notre Dame)
The initial player list was determined by a panel of Division I college coaches, representing all conferences, who nominated and voted for players in conjunction with MLS coaches. These players will be joined by Generation adidas players, additional collegiate players from NCAA Division II and III schools, NAIA schools, and Division I alternates.