Sights, Sounds, and Takeaways – 2019 MLS SuperDraft

Sights, sounds, and takeways from the 2019 MLS SuperDraft in the Windy City and how FC Cincinnati’s fared.

MLS puts on an impressive event, and the 2019 SuperDraft in Chicago was evidence of that. Here’s a summary of our impressions of the four-hour gala in the Windy City and how FC Cincinnati’s fared.

Takeaways

Our first impression was that . . . these kids are young. We knew that going in, but when actually standing face-to-face to ask them questions, we realized that these are young men very much at the beginning of a journey. For players that start this process in an academy instead of college, the journey begins even earlier. That underlines the point that the development of these drafted players facilitated by FCC is not just technical and tactical. This also entails the development of young athletes into professional adults.

The SuperDraft may be approaching extinction, but not for a few years at least. Between the first and second rounds, Garber addressed the media and answered questions about the future of the draft.

“Our league needs special moments. Our sport needs special moments. This is a moment to provide a young person with a moment to stand up there, thank his family, thank his coaches, and support the youth system, not just the colleges, that he came from.”

Garber continued to say that he still thought the draft is an effective way to market MLS and the sport. To keep the story short — the draft may change format and eventually go away, but we wouldn’t expect that to happen in the near future.

The cast of managers, front office members, and technical staff, many of whom are former soccer greats, is impressive when assembled in one place. Former U.S men’s national team coach Bob Bradley stood out immediately with his clean-shaven scalp and a steely stare. National team heroes like Brad Friedel and Claudio Reyna crowded the draft floor. International newcomers that have competed and managed at the highest levels like Frank de Boer, Matias Almeyda, and Domènec Torrent mingled with the rest. When MLS puts these characters together with the future of young players on the line, the energy is pulsating. The journalists in attendance were no slouches either. Pretty much every soccer pundit you’ve ever followed on Twitter was in the room and swarming Frankie when he was selected — impressive people that no doubt helped to create an impressive event.

How well did FC Cincinnati do? Pretty well if you read the reviews. Travis Clark gave FCC an A+, while Ives Galarcep put them in his “winners” category. In reality, only time will tell. Will Frankie Amaya continue to develop into a bona fide starting MLS CAM? Will he reach great heights with the senior U.S. national team? Is Logan Gdula a near-MLS-ready fullback like many think? Even before factoring in the team recouping 100K in allocation money for some of the Philadelphia picks, overall, FC Cincinnati fans should be satisfied with the outcome.

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Top Quotes and Audio

Frankie Amaya

Why do you think you were number one?

I thought I was the overall best player, not saying it in a cocky way but a humble way. I worked so hard. Nobody worked harder than me, so I think I deserved number one.

Who are your influences?

My idol is Iniesta from Barcelona. That’s who I grew up watching, and that’s my favorite player.

Have you studied Alan Koch and the way he likes to play and do you think you would fit in that system?

I don’t know, we’ll see, we’re starting a new season . . . I have to work for it. It’s not just given. So we’ll see where I fit in. Wherever he wants me to play I’ll be happy to play there.

Full scrum interview below.

Frankie Amaya

Logan Gdula

Being selected, what did it mean to you?

It meant everything, . . . everything I’ve worked for, for the past 22 years. My mom, she sacraficed so much. It’s just a great moment a great experience. I just wanted to show people what it was for me, what it meant to me.

Can you tell us more about your mom?

She had me when she was 18. She dropped out of college and worked three jobs, living with my grandparents. She did everything for me, to make sure I was successful. She worked her hardest. She never gave up on me and never gave up on herself. She’s a fighter.

Do you have any idols or influences?

I was a big Cristiano Ronaldo fan growing up, a huge Man. U. fan. I just thought he was so entertaining to watch.

Full scrum interview below.

Logan Gdula

Jimmy Hague

What was your impression of Jack (Stern, FC Cincinnati’s goalkeeper coach)?

I really like him. He’s really down to earth. It sounds like he’s really going to push me hard.

What do you think got you this far? What do you do well?

Honestly, just working hard. As a goalkeeper, it’s all about just grinding. I spent my first two years at (Michigan) State and just learned and trained and trained. So I think just working hard and always trying to be better.

Full scrum interview below.

Jimmy Hague

Tommy McCabe

What do you know about FC Cincinnati?

I had a few friends that used to play for the USL team . . . seeing how much the fans care about the club and how passionate they are, and how well they’ve done in the USL, I hope that continues.

How do you think you’ll manage the pressure in your first year as a professional after being at a prestigious program like Notre Dame?

Expect anything to come your way, know that there are going to be ups and downs. I try not to get the highs too high or the lows too low, and enjoy the whole process. Every day there’s going to be a new challenge and you have to step up to it in order to succeed.

Who are your influences?

Growing up I was an Arsenal fan. I loved watching them and Thierry Henry. Growing up in New Jersey, when he came to the Red Bulls, I would always go and watch him play. I don’t think we’re the same kind of player at all but I loved watching him play. Then I think from U.S. soccer, I always loved watching Michael Bradley play. He’s one of my favorite Men’s National team players.

Full scrum interview below.

Tommy McCabe

Ben Lundt

How are you feeling?

I’m very excited. Cincinnati was the team I was hoping for. I lived the past 3 years in Ohio, I wanted to stay there. My girlfriend’s from Ohio, her family’s from Ohio, so it all worked out.

How do you prepare for the professional level?

I think Akron prepared me very well for the professional level, every weekend playing against the best college teams in the country, making it to 2 college cups, playing the final just a couple of weeks ago it prepared me very well.

What are your impressions of MLS?

I know a lot about the MLS its something I’ve been following intesnely for the past 4 years. It’s a dream I’ve had for the past 4 years, getting drafted and joining a team, so I’m very excited.

Who are you idols or influences?

Oliver Kahn was my hero growing up as well as Manuel Neuer, but I try to have my own style and take a little bit from everyone.

Full scrum interview below.

Ben Lundt

So that’s a wrap for FC Cincinnati’s first MLS draft. Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s offseason and MLS roster build.

FC Cincinnati Selects Forward Rashawn Dally and Passes on Two in the Late Rounds

FC Cincinnati selected forward Rashawn Dally and passed on their two late round selections in the MLS SuperDraft.

The final two rounds of the MLS SuperDraft took place on Monday, January 14th via conference call and lasted less than 45 minutes. FC Cincinnati had three total picks to use at the #49, #61, and #85 spots. However, they opted to only use one, selecting a forward from a small private college in Connecticut. Thereafter, the technical staff opted to pass on their final two selections of the draft.

Round 3 – Pick #49 – Rashawn Dally

Age: 22
Position: Forward
From: Bloomfield, CT (holds U.S. and Jamaican citizenship)
College: Quinnipiac University
Stats: From the Quinnipac Bobcat’s player profile on Dally (linked above).

“Dally recorded 16 points and 15 assists in his career with the Bobcats, playing in 78 career games – which ranks tied for No. 5 in program history. He tallied six goals and six assists in 2018 to finish second on the team in total scoring (18 points). Dally recorded 15 points (five goals, five assists) in MAAC play. “

In March of 2018, Dally was also called into the senior Jamaican national team camp. He has featured in match play for the Reggae Boyz at the U-18 and U-20 levels.


Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s offseason and MLS roster build.

SuperDraft Q&A with Travis Clark of Top Drawer Soccer

UCLA Freshman Frankie Amaya / Image: Don Liebig – UCLA

The MLS Combine starts today in Orlando and lasts through January 9th. Coaches, scouts, and media from around the country are gathered in Florida to gauge the talent available in this year’s draft. Orange & Blue Press connected with Travis Clark of Top Drawer Soccer to get his take on the 2019 college players and how FC Cincinnati should approach the SuperDraft. Clark is the Director of Content at Top Drawer and an expert on college soccer.

How do you compare this year’s draft class to recent years? Is it weaker as some have suggested?

TC: This year’s draft class is like many others. Diluted due to the elite players skipping school or already tied to MLS teams via the Homegrown mechanism. There aren’t a lot of players available at the top pick worthy of selection.

Every #1 pick since 2003 has been a Generation adidas player. Who are the top few names you expect to be in this year’s class, and do you expect the streak of #1 overall picks being Generation adidas to continue?

TC: There are no huge surprises in this year’s Generation adidas class so far, aside from the league making a very obvious swing back towards domestic players — last year’s group was mostly overseas college players. Given FC Cincinnati’s team at this point, adding a GA player at No. 1 seems inevitable because it comes with roster flexibility. There’s no clear candidate I’d take, although Siad Haji or Frankie Amaya have the highest ceilings. From what I can gather, Haji could fill a solid need, as he’s an attacking player that can occupy wide areas and play on the wing.

The Generation adidas players signed so far are Siad Haji, John Nelson, JJ Williams, Tajon Buchanan, Frankie Amaya, Griff Dorsey, and Dayne St. Clair.

Do you think FC Cincinnati’s draft strategy with their #1 pick should be to just get the best overall player, or should they try to address a 2019 positional need?

TC: FCC should definitely target the best player they can get, or the player they feel has the highest ceiling. There won’t be many players that are ready to step in right away and compete for time.

Is the MLS SuperDraft Still Relevant?

Who do you think FC Cincinnati should select and why?

TC: If I was FC Cincinnati, I would look to trade down or trade the pick away. Bring in a proven MLS player that a team is looking to move or some allocation money that can be used elsewhere.

What is the likelihood that FC Cincinnati’s first pick will be a year-one difference maker for the team?

TC: 5% at most. I don’t think any player from college soccer available in the draft will be a huge difference maker.

What are the odds that FCC trades the #1 pick to get something in return? Do you think that’s a good strategy?

TC: Yes — as I noted, it would make plenty of sense, depending on salary. Getting a player in the GA program makes sense too because it won’t count against the cap.

Do you know of any sleepers that might slip to the second round and make a high-quality pick there?

TC: I actually feel like FC Cincinnati could find a player in the second round. Last year, LAFC picked someone that I believe was cut in the first week or two. Looking for a central defender, outside back, or wide player with the first pick in the second round might yield a surprise. . . ., there should even be central midfielders out there (Joey Piatczyc, Andrew Samuels, or Tommy McCabe) that should be able to make the team.

Generation adidas Class

Many expected MLS to announce the 2019 Generation adidas class today, but there is no official news yet. The announcement is likely delayed in an attempt to include a couple of standout players who have not yet signed. One example is North Carolina State fullback Manny Perez, who is also attracting interest from Europe.

Generation adidas is a joint program between MLS and Adidas in which a handful of the top collegiate underclassmen and select youth national team players are signed to MLS contracts and made available in the SuperDraft. Since 2003, every #1 pick in the MLS SuperDraft has come from the Generation adidas class.

Despite the lack of an MLS announcement, tweets like this are starting to surface. Haji is the #1 ranked prospect on Top Drawer Soccer’s December 24th MLS Big Draft Board.

We’d like to say a huge thank you to Travis for his time and insights. Get over to Top Drawer Soccer and check out all of their content on the draft, college, high school, and U.S. youth soccer. Also, stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of the 2019 MLS SuperDraft and FC Cincinnati’s offseason.

Is the MLS SuperDraft Still Relevant?

Should FC Cincinnati fans really pay attention to the MLS SuperDraft?

Image: Joe Craven

Some people may have just been introduced to it, and others may be skeptical, so we feel the question should be asked. Should FC Cincinnati fans really pay attention to the MLS SuperDraft?

Experts generally agree that the MLS SuperDraft is less important to overall talent acquisition than drafts in other American sports. So why is that the case?

The first reason for the SuperDraft’s waning importance is the MLS Homegrown Player Rule. Instituted in 2008, the rule encourages MLS teams to develop talent through their own academy. It then allows teams to retain rights to the players as they develop, even if they go to college. To encourage MLS clubs to participate, homegrowns have roster rule benefits versus standard players that help with an MLS team’s overall roster build.

Now that the Homegrown rule has been in place for over ten years, clubs are more likely to identify top local players early, then sign them to Homegrown contracts at or before college age. Even if the club doesn’t, they retain rights to academy players throughout college and gets first dibs to offer them a contract, as long as they do it prior to the SuperDraft following the player’s senior year. The end result is that a lot of American talent goes through the academy pipeline. Ultimately, that’s probably a good thing.

Second, many youth players continue to opt for overseas development, rather than follow a U.S. based path that includes college. They draw on the examples set by notable U.S. players like Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Timothy Weah. Many believe that players receive better coaching outside of the U.S and play against better competition. There’s a whole business behind the talent placement too. Rob Moore, who runs the U.K.-based On Target soccer agency, placed Pulisic at Dortmund and actively looks for U.S. based players to place with European clubs. This outflux of talent obviously weakens the pool of U.S. players that attend college and get to MLS via the draft. It’s worth noting that many of the big-name players above started their development at U.S. academies before moving to Europe, so the development approach is really a hybrid.

Finally, MLS teams are spending more money on their rosters as the salary cap increases and mechanisms like Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) are used to build rosters. As the overall roster values increase, the talent that finds its way the senior roster is less likely to come through the collegiate ranks. MLS provides incentives and allocates roster spots designed to keep lower-paid, developing players with the team. However, it is increasingly less likely that SuperDraft procured players will be able to earn these spots, or advance the first team as more money comes into the league.

In search of some numbers to back this up? Research by Soccer America revealed that in 2018, fewer than 25 percent of the players selected in the previous three drafts were currently with an MLS team.

The Verdict

The draft is clearly less important than it used to be for a variety of reason and its value is diminishing annually. Additional, the likelihood of a SuperDraft player impacting an MLS team right away is low.

In a recent conversation with Orange & Blue Press, college soccer expert Travis Clark of Top Drawer Soccer said the following about the upcoming draft.

This year’s draft class is like many others. Diluted due to the elite players skipping school or already (being) tied to MLS teams via the Homegrown mechanism. There aren’t a lot of players available at the top pick worthy of selection.

The highest draft picks really are the ones to watch and, since FC Cincinnati has the first overall pick, that’s something to pay attention to. However, most of the draftees will slug it out in training camps for a limited number of MLS spots, and often will look to the USL to continue their career, and eventually get a shot at the American first division.

While the SuperDraft is becoming progressively less important, it undeniably still produces quality MLS players. Look no further than Atlanta United’s Julian Gressell for proof of that. However, SuperDraft success stories are becoming the exception rather than the rule as America’s first division evolves.

Meet the MLS SuperDraft

The MLS SuperDraft is less than two weeks away and it’s the last major roster-building event before FC Cincinnati’s preseason begins. Like many aspects of MLS, the SuperDraft is complicated. It resembles the drafts of other major American sports but also has a number of idiosyncrasies. This article lays out the essentials of the SuperDraft for readers who are new to the draft, or for soccer fans that haven’t paid close attention until Cincinnati had an MLS team.

MLS SuperDraft Essentials

The SuperDraft consists of four rounds of player selections, typically split over two days. The first two rounds will take place at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago on Friday, January 11th. Two more rounds typically follow the Sunday after (although that schedule has not yet been confirmed). MLS conducted the final two rounds via conference call rather than in person in recent years.

As the lone expansion team, FC Cincinnati holds the first overall pick and the first pick in each subsequent round of the draft. Teams that did not make the 2018 playoffs select after FCC, beginning with the team that totaled the fewest points during the 2018 regular season. The remaining teams select based on which team had fewest regular season points among teams eliminated in the same round of the MLS playoffs.

Generation Adidas (GA) players are a small group of players but are often the hottest commodity in the SuperDraft. Each year, through the GA program, the league signs a handful of elite underclassmen and youth national team player to MLS contracts. They then enter the SuperDraft. As an added benefit to teams that select them, GA players don’t count against the salary budget until they graduate from the program. Since 2003, every number one draft pick has been a Generation Adidas player. MLS should announce the 2019 GA class during the first week of January. For the rest of the draft details we’ll turn to our fast facts format.

Fast Facts

  • FC Cincinnati has five total picks, including two second-round draft picks. They secured an extra second-round pick by means of a trade with Toronto FC in return for the first overall allocation spot.
  • Only players on the league’s draft-eligible list can be selected. Club technical staffs and the league itself nominate the players on this list.
  • The majority of the eligible players are college seniors, but the list also includes Generation Adidas players, and a can include non-collegiate youth international players. For example, there was one non-collegiate player in 2018 draft, Issaka Nyemewero, a Ghanaian youth-international.
  • The Homegrown Player Rule overrides SuperDraft eligibility if a contract is offered. For example, if a college senior played for an MLS academy and qualifies as a homegrown, that player will not be available in the draft as long as the MLS club offers the player a contract before the SuperDraft. They essentially get first dibs on any homegrown talent. A good example of this situation is Indiana senior Andrew Gutman, who is currently Top Drawer Soccer’s Player of the Year and #1 overall Men’s player. Gutman is a Chicago Fire academy product, but they have not yet signed him and he’s rumored to be on his way to Europe.
  • MLS teams can trade SuperDraft picks like in other American sports, so teams can move around in order to get a player they want or trade their pick for other assets, such as allocation money, a player, or an international spot.
  • Draft picks typically enter training camp with the clubs that drafted them but it’s not a guarantee that they will make the team’s roster.

The MLS SuperDraft will be streamed live on MLSSOCCER.COM. The SuperDraft is open to the public at no charge. However, seating is limited, so get there early if you’re making the trip to Chicago. Orange & Blue Press will be in Chicago on January 11th to cover the event.

Stay tuned for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s offseason and MLS roster build.