Every MLS franchise has a chance to start anew on Thursday at the 2014 SuperDraft.
The concept of a draft isn't unique to American sports fans, but to foreign soccer fans, it's anathema. The idea that a player would be obligated to move to a team not of his choosing doesn't make any sense, nor does the fact that teams with losing records would be rewarded by having the lowest picks.
But the draft offers a great chance for those teams who had a forgettable 2013 season to hit the reset button in 2014. A couple of key moves here and there, and you can go from worst to first in no time—especially with the unpredictability of the playoffs.
With so many talented players in the draft pool, plenty of teams will receive major upgrades on Thursday and add another piece to the foundation of what they'll hope will provide future success.
Here's a quick preview of the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, with the draft order and a couple of key players worth following ahead of Thursday.
When: Thursday, Jan. 16, at 12 p.m. ET
Where: Philadelphia Convention Center, Philadelphia, Pa.
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
|SuperDraft Order—First Round|
|4||New England Revolution|
|9||San Jose Earthquakes|
|12||New England Revolution|
|14||Los Angeles Galaxy|
|18||Real Salt Lake|
|19||New England Revolution|
Stars to Watch
Andre Blake, GK, Connecticut
Andre Blake has been on the top of the board for many teams for months now. The University of Connecticut goalkeeper has everything you look for in a prospect.
He's listed at 6'4", 175 pounds on the Huskies' website, so size isn't an issue. Blake is a tremendous athlete capable of making the sprawling acrobatic saves.
As Simon Borg of MLSSoccer.com pointed out, Blake has received rave reviews from coaches at the college level:
Blake's dream of becoming a rookie starter in MLS could become a reality if you believe college coaches, who say that he could have been playing in MLS last year (he says he wanted to come out after his sophomore season but the offer didn't materialize). His coach at UConn, Ray Reid, even goes as far to predict he'll be an MLS All-Star.
Goalkeepers in general are undervalued in soccer circles. This is a player who has a much longer period of solid production than outfield players and also comes at a much cheaper price salary-wise. Whoever selects Blake will be getting a rock between the sticks for the next decade.
Christian Dean and Steve Birnbaum, D, California
Rarely are players from the same team chosen in the top five, especially two players who play the same position or positions relatively close to one another. Generally, one player stands out at his teammate's expense.
That isn't a problem for Steve Birnbaum and Christian Dean. Both are projected as top-five picks and could easily go Nos. 1-2.
Birnbaum and Dean formed the spine of what was a tough California Golden Bears defense.
Of the two, Birnbaum is the more polished, while Dean has the higher upside. It will be interesting to see in what order they go and how early they're off the board.
Patrick Mullins, F Maryland
Everybody loves the strikers because they're the ones scoring the goals. Since Patrick Mullins is one of the best forwards on the board, you can't expect that he'll have to wait very long to hear his name called.
Mullins has had a decorated career at Maryland, becoming the seventh player in NCAA history to win back-to-back Hermann awards, the trophy given annually to the best Division I player in the country. He had 19 goals during the season, pushing his career total to 47.
Terrapins coach Sasho Cirovski has no doubt about whether Mullins will be a hit at the next level: "Patrick leaves Maryland as one of the all-time greats," he said, per Joseph Halm of The Times-Picayune. "He is the total package. He improved every year at Maryland. I expect that to continue in MLS."
Borg and Matthew Doyle of MLSSoccer.com also listed Mullins as one of their top-five players from the combine:
The two-time MAC Hermann Trophy winner has been scouted so thoroughly that teams have maybe lost sight of how much he does well. He’s always in motion, he’s a predator in the box, and while he’s not a great playmaker from the center forward spot, he’s still pretty good. Looked the part of an MLS striker on Sunday.
Mullins set the bar extremely high following his success in college, but he has the talent to bang in the goals once he hits MLS.