By IVES GALARCEP
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.– The 2014 MLS Combine is set to kick off on Friday afternoon and the next five days will go a long way in helping shape the direction of Thursday’s 2014 MLS Draft. Before we get to those important Combine matches, it is time to have one last look at what the MLS Draft might look like based on player ratings as they stand before the Combine.
Plenty has changed since the previous Mock Draft last weekend. While no draft picks have been traded yet, we have seen movement on the Generation adidas front with centerback Damion Lowe landing a GA contract while UConn forward Cyle Larin has yet to sign. With that in mind, we are leaving Larin out of this Mock Draft since, at this moment, it appears he will not be signing.
It should be pointed out that we had a few later-round picks going to the wrong teams in recent mock drafts. Those have been corrected and the draft order you see here is the most up-to-date draft order.
This will be the next-to-last mock draft for us, with the final SBI MLS Mock Draft set for Wednesday, the day before the draft, and that will be one you definitely want to see as it will be based on final evaluations and input from coaches and general managers from around MLS.
Now, without further ado, here is the latest SBI MLS Mock Draft, version 3.0, including picks for the first three of the four total rounds:
SBI 2014 MLS Mock Draft (Version 3.o)
(*-Generation adidas player)
1. D.C. UNITED
Patrick Mullins, Maryland, Forward
This will be seen by teams around the league as a reach, but with the team making several additions to the defense, D.C. can’t be blamed for going with the best attacking player in college soccer over the past two seasons. Mullins has shown good touch and a nose for goal and should have a solid pro career.
Having said all that, it appears more and more likely D.C. United will trade this pick to a team looking for one of the top centerbacks in the draft, most likely Christian Dean. If Dean and Steven Birnbaum impress with strong Combines, a trade for this pick will become even more likely. If Mullins doesn’t go with this top pick, he could definitely slide a handful of picks out of the Top Five.
Christian Dean, California, Centerback
The Union can flip a coin and go with either Dean or Birnbaum. Though Birnbaum is more prepared to help right away, Dean’s upside and left foot will be hard to pass up.
3. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS
Steve Birnbaum, California, Centerback
The most pro-ready of all the centerbacks in the draft, Birnbaum can step in and start for the Whitecaps on Day One, assuming he slips this far. Birnbaum could also wind up going with the No. 1 overall pick.
4. COLUMBUS CREW
Pedro Ribeiro, Coastal Carolina, Central Midfielder
With Cyle Larin still unsigned, the Columbus Crew look to boost their central midfield options and Ribeiro is arguably the best option to do just that. The tall and lanky Brazilian has impressive vision, passing touch and can also set up his own chances. The Union could also consider a player like Marlon Hairston.
5. FC DALLAS
*Schillo Tshuma, Maryland, Forward
He didn’t have the best sophomore season, but Tshuma’s outstanding freshman campaign wasn’t easily forgotten and he remains one of the most explosive attacking players in the pool. For an FC Dallas team that can use some speed up top, Tshuma makes sense.
6. PHILADELPHIA UNION
*Marlon Hairston, Central Midfielder, Louisville
The Union might find it difficult to pass on a talent like Andre Blake at this pick so don’t be surprised if the UConn goalkeeper is snatched here, but Hairston makes more sense given what the Union have on the roster and in the pipeline. Hairston still needs time to develop, but he has the talent to eventually be anchoring the Union central midfield.
7. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS
*Andre Blake, UConn, Goalkeeper
The Whitecaps parted ways with back up goalkeeper Brad Knighton, but could grab a goalkeeper of the future in Blake, who is clearly the top player in the draft at his position. The Jamaican-born Blake would join fellow Jamaican Darren Mattocks on the Whitecaps.
8. CHICAGO FIRE
*A.J. Cochran, Wisconsin, Centerback
Having added an outstanding talent in Homegrown Player Harrison Shipp, who would have been a top two pick if he were in the draft, the Fire can look to grab the best talent available and find some quality centerback depth in Cochran. Frank Yallop could go with Eric Miller as well, but adding a Generation adidas player with very good upside makes sense here.
9. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
*Eric Miller, Creighton, Right Back
The Earthquakes lost Steve Beitashour in the offseason to a free transfer and find a perfect replacement in Miller. If Miller can stay healthy– injuries have plagued his college career– the U.S. Under-20 fullback just might be able to step in and start for Mark Watson.
10. MONTREAL IMPACT
Kevin Cope, Michigan State, Centerback
The Impact will be happy to be able to grab one of the draft’s best centerbacks at this selection, and we’ll project they grab Cope over Kyle Venter. Cope is polished enough to contribute immediately to an Impact central defense in dire need of help.
11. COLORADO RAPIDS
Kyle Venter, New Mexico, Centerback
The Rapids may not know who their head coach will be in 2014 but they do know that Venter is a local product who can provide needed depth at centerback.
12. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
Steve Neumann, Georgetown, Forward/Midfielder
Though he could go as high as sixth overall, we can see Neumann sliding to the Revs, who would be happy to grab a player who has shown a real nose for goal, even if forward may not be his most natural position. The Revs could also consider Jared Watts or Joey Dillon to help the team’s defensive midfield depth.
13. SEATTLE SOUNDERS
Nikita Kotlov, Indiana, Left winger
Sigi Schmid is a coach who isn’t afraid to reach for a player he likes, as we’ve seen in past drafts, and we could see Schmid being interested in a quick left winger like Kotlov, who can provide service and also score goals. This is early for Kotlov to go, but Schmid has done this before.
14. LA GALAXY
Jared Watts, Wake Forest, Defensive Midfielder
The Galaxy have enough depth at centerback, and could use a defensive midfield prospect. Bruce Arena could go with Joey Dillon at this pick, or trade out of the first round, but we’ll go with Watts to provide some central midfield depth.
15. TORONTO FC
Grant Van De Casteele, Notre Dame, Centerback
Even though the team has a handful of centerbacks, the recent additions of marquee talent in other areas makes centerback a position depth can be a focus. Enter Van De Casteele, who boasts size, maturity and intelligence and could play right away if needed.
16. HOUSTON DYNAMO
Ben Sweat, South Florida, Left Back
Centerback is a need area for the Dynamo in terms of depth, but passing on a talent like Sweat at left back may be too difficult for Dom Kinnear. Other options at this pick include Joe Sofia and Romena Bowie.
17. PORTLAND TIMBERS
Marco Franco, UC-Irvine, Centerback/Right Back
Caleb Porter loves technical defenders and there isn’t a more technical one in the draft than Franco, who is small for a centerback at 5-11, but would work well in Porter’s system. He could also help provide depth at right back as well. The looming signing of smallish and skilled centerback Bryan Gallego to a Homegrown Player deal might make this selection seem less likely, but I doubt Porter can have too many skilled defenders.
18. REAL SALT LAKE
Romena Bowie, VCU, Defensive Midfielder
In a year where Kyle Beckerman could be away with the U.S. National Team for stretches, adding some defensive midfield depth wouldn’t be a bad thing. Bowie is a very highly-regarded option who would higher on most team’s draft boards if not for his international status as a Jamaican-born player.
19. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
Joey Dillon, Georgetown, Defensive Midfielder
The Revs spent the second half of the 2013 season playing without a true defensive midfielder, so grabbing one in the draft should be a priority for Jay Heaps’ squad. Dillon was a four-year starter for Georgetown and has the work rate and poise on the ball to be a successful pro.
20. CHIVAS USA
Mamadou Diouf, UConn, Forward
21. SEATTLE SOUNDERS
Joe Sofia, UCLA, Centerback
22. NEW YORK RED BULLS
*Damion Lowe, Hartford, Centerback
23. COLUMBUS CREW
Robbie Derschang, Akron, Left Winger
24. TORONTO FC
Mackenzie Pridham, Cal Poly, Forward
25. PHILADELPHIA UNION
Luca Gimenez, Wake Forest, Right winger
26. PORTLAND TIMBERS
Mark Sherrod, Memphis, Forward
27. PHILADELPHIA UNION
George Fochive, UConn, Defensive Midfielder
28. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
J.J. Koval, Stanford, Central Midfielder
29. MONTREAL IMPACT
Nick Hagglund, Xavier, Centerback
30. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS
Reinaldo Brenes, Akron, Forward
31. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
Victor Chavez, UCLA, Forward
32. HOUSTON DYNAMO
Taylor Peay, Washington, Centerback
33. LOS ANGELES GALAXY
Justin Portillo, Coastal Carolina, Forward/Midfielder
34. NEW YORK RED BULLS
A.J. Corrado, Indiana, Attacking Midfielder
35. COLORADO RAPIDS
Rafael Diaz, St. John’s, Goalkeeper
36. PORTLAND TIMBERS
Eric Stevenson, Akron, Left Wing/Left Back
37. MONTREAL IMPACT
Aodhan Quinn, Akron, Right winger
38. SPORTING KC
Thomas McNamara, Clemson, Central Midfielder
39. PORTLAND TIMBERS
Ryan Neil, California, Left winger
40. CHIVAS USA
Enrique Cardenas, UC-Irvine, Forward
41. SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Jimmy Ockford, Louisville, Centerback
42. COLUMBUS CREW
Daniel Lovitz, Elon, Left winger
43. FC DALLAS
Victor Munoz, UCLA, Midfielder
44. PHILADELPHIA UNION
Pete Caringi, UMBC, Forward
45. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS
Kingsley Baiden, UCSB, Defensive Midfielder
46. PHILADELPHIA UNION
Bryan Ciesulka, Marquette, Central Midfielder
47. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
Kris Tyrpak, Houston Baptist, Forward
48. MONTREAL IMPACT
Kees Heemskerk, College of Charleston, Goalkeeper
49. COLORADO RAPIDS
Fabio Pereira, Michigan, Attacking Midfielder
50. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
Wojciech Wojcik, Bradley, Forward
51. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS
Tomislav Zadro, Wisconsin, Central Midfielder
52. PHILADELPHIA UNION
Nick Walker, FDU, Centerback
53. REAL SALT LAKE
Adnan Gabeljic, Saint Louis, Forward
54. HOUSTON DYNAMO
Michael Kafari, New Mexico, Defensive Midfielder
55. SEATTLE SOUNDERS
Kadeem Dacres, UMBC, Attacking Midfielder/Left Winger
56. REAL SALT LAKE
Chris Duvall, Wake Forest, Right Back
57. SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Zach Bolden, Denver, Left Winger