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SBI’s 2013 MLS Draft Team-by-Team Grades

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The 2013 MLS Draft was one filled with wheeling and dealing, and plenty of surprises, but the actual draft picks made were, for the most part, fairly reasonable and this year’s draft lacked the true head-scratching selections of year’s past.

Most coaches and general managers I spoke to leading up to the draft agreed that there were probably at least 20, and potentially as many as 30, players capable of making rosters and potentially seeing good minutes and developing into useful MLS players.

We won’t be able to know just how well teams actually did until two or three years go by and players have the chance to develop and show their true value, but what we can do is try and measure just how well teams did with their picks based on how players were rated heading into the draft.

The big winners on draft day were pretty clear to identify, with Toronto FC, Colorado and Houston walking away with tremendous value for the picks they entered the day with.

And the losers? It is tough to find a team in the draft that didn’t come away with at least one player who filled a need. You could argue the Philadelphia Union qualify, but even they did well with the two second-round picks they had, at least in terms of landing talent.

Here is a closer look at how all 19 teams did in the 2013 MLS Draft (keep in mind grades are based on selections made, so we didn’t factor in players acquired for draft picks):



The draft could not have gone any better for TFC. They pull off three trades, pocket a significant amount of allocation money (in the $200,000 range total) and still landed two of their favorite players (both Canadian to boot). Kyle Bekker could become a star and Emery Welshman could give the team good  minutes at forward as a rookie.


The Rapids had been linked to Walker Zimmerman before the draft, but instead of trading up and giving up assets, they stood pat and took a player in Deshorn Brown who fits an immediate need for a replacement for Omar Cummings. Dillon Powers also helps offset the departure of Jeff Larentowicz. Throw in grabbing a standout left back prospect in Kory Kindle in the second round and the Rapids walk away with three quality players.


The Dynamo had two picks and managed to grab two players well lower than they would have been projected to go before the draft (and specifically before the MLS Combine). Both Johnson and Nealis underperformed at the Combine but both were steals where Houston took them. Johnson should thrive playing for Kinnear and alongside fellow Jamaicans like Omar Cummings, Jermaine Taylor and Je-Vaughn Watson while Nealis gives the Dynamo some needed depth at left back.


The Whitecaps traded up to grab young Gambian forward Kekuta Manneh, a speedy attacking player who should fit in well into Vancouver’s new attacking approach. The same goes for Erik Hurtado, who boasts speed, is good with both feet and is perfectly-suited to play as a wide forward in the 4-3-3.

Manneh is more of a wild card, but his showing at the MLS Combine helped convince plenty of teams that he was worthy of an early pick, which is why the Whitecaps traded up to secure the services of a player they saw up close during a training stint last season. As for Hurtado, he was one of my favorite player in this draft, with his speed and tenacity capable of helping him see heavy minutes as a rookie.


The Timbers score this grade because they took a player they were planning on waiving anyway in Mike Fucito and parlayed him into centerback Dylan Tucker-Gangnes, who some teams considered a first-round-caliber player. Throw in the fact there is a very good chance they took Tucker-Gangnes just before arch-rival Seattle would have and you see why the Timbers earn high marks.

The Timbers didn’t have a first-round pick because they dealt it to Houston in a trade that landed Kris Boyd.


The Revs traded up and landed the consensus best player in the draft in Andrew Farrell. Their next three picks were second-round selections that were a bit more questionable. Donnie Smith is a fast left winger who was decent value, while Luke Spencer (Xavier) enjoyed a strong combine but you can argue there were better forwards left on the board. Louis Soffner was a standout during Indiana’s title run, and is good enough to make the squad, but you can’t help but wonder if he was really the best goalkeeper left on the board (James Belshaw was widely regarded as the best, but his international status caused him to slip out of the draft.)


The Sounders were aggressive on draft day, trading up to grab Eriq Zavaleta and landed a player with the tools to develop into an elite centerback. He boasts good size (6-foot-1), athleticism and technical ability better suited to be a top central defender. Seattle’s second-round pick, Brown’s Dylan Remick, impressed at the Combine but you can definitely argue there were better left backs on the board, such as Jimmy Nealis and Greg Cochrane.


The loss of Roger Espinoza to Wigan was a major blow, even with the acquisition of Benny Feilhaber, but Lopez could eventually develop into a long-term replacement for Espinoza. Lopez slipped because of questions about just where he fits into a midfield, and because he followed up a somewhat disappointing sophomore season at UNC with a so-so Combine. Players who played with and against him had a different view though, with many praising Lopez’s game.

Lopez isn’t likely to be a first-year option for Sporting KC, but has the tools to develop into a standout and he has landed at the kind of team capable of developing him, much the way they developed Espinoza as a young midfielder. And for those asking, Lopez is more of a deep-lying passer ala Reyna or Pirlo. He is not a pure defensive midfielder or a playmaker, as some have suggested.


The Earthquakes came into the draft looking for some centerback depth after losing Ike Opara in the MLS Re-Entry Draft, and they couldn’t have asked for a better option with the No. 15 overall pick than Georgetown senior Tommy Muller, who was considered the best senior centerback in the draft. Muller could develop into a perfect complement to Victor Bernardez if called on to start. He doesn’t boast imposing size, but is quick, strong and reads the game extremely well. You can argue he’s the most polished defender in the draft.

The Earthquakes went for a skilled playmaker in Dan Delgado (San Diego) in the second round, a project who could provide some depth in central midfield, but who may struggle to make the roster.


Taking Charlie Rugg in the first round felt like a reach. He endured an injury-hit senior year that hurt his stock considerably, and even though he showed good glimpses in the Combine, you still get the feeling the Galaxy could have taken him in the second round.

The Galaxy’s second-round picks were both good additions for defensive depth. Kofi Opare could develop into a useful centerback while left back/winger Greg Cochrane was good enough to have gone much earlier in the second round.

It should be noted that the Galaxy’s Homegrown Player signing, Gyasi Zardes, would very likely have been the No. 1 player taken in the MLS Draft if he had been available in the draft. That makes the gamble on Rugg a little easier to make.


The Crew probably took Notre Dame’s Ryan Finley earlier than most teams would have, but Columbus came in looking for some forward depth and grabbed arguably the best finisher in the draft. Time will tell whether the Crew would have been better off taking Jason Johnson, but Finley’s outstanding senior year showed us a player who has matured and developed his game considerably.

Columbus grabbed a Combine standout in the second round in Drew Beckie (University of Denver), who impressed several teams in Fort Lauderdale. He should provide some depth at left back and centerback on a team that needed cover at both spots.

Crew fans will have plenty of young talent to watch this season with an infusion of Homegrown players to go with their two draft picks. Will Trapp was a first-round caliber talent while Chad Barson is also a solid defender. If you throw those into the grade equation, the Crew would be registering an A on the draft/homegrown player grade front.


RSL could certainly have used a centerback, especially after the departure of Jamison Olave and the recent injury to Nat Borchers, but RSL focused on another need, which is central midfield depth. The departure of Will Johnson left the team with a need and John Stertzer should help provide some cover. He was one of the most pro-ready midfielders in the draft, boasting good size, good passing touch and the versatility to play in a variety of midfield roles.

Where RSL turned some heads was with the selection of New Mexico forward Devon Sandoval. He looked awful at the MLS Combine but Real Salt Lake had Sandoval train with the team last year and came away impressed enough to grab him with the 29th overall pick. Taking him ahead of a centerback like Dylan Tucker-Gangnes could wind up proving costly (though RSL still has decent centerback depth).


If you spend your lone pick on a player who fills a key need, and that player has local ties, then you have had a pretty good day. The real question is whether Taylor Kemp was truly the best left back in the draft as D.C. United noted. A year ago Kemp was on the fringes of the Generation adidas conversation, but an injury-hit senior season hurt his stock, as did a poor showing in the NCAA Tournament. Players like Kory Kindle and Drew Beckie were also worth consideration and it will be up to Kemp to show that he is a much better player than he showed in 2012.


Much like D.C. United, the Red Bulls entered the draft looking to fill one key need, some central midfield depth, and landed a quality player in the second round in Ian Christianson, a skilled midfielder well-suited to provide some depth behind Dax McCarty on the Red Bulls depth chart. Christianson was a key cog in Georgetown’s high-powered attack, and his ability to connect the defense to the attack makes him a potential steal as the No. 22 pick in the draft.

When you consider the Red Bulls spent their 2013 first-round pick to acquire Kenny Cooper, who scored 18 goals in 2012, New York did very well to maximize value from their 2013 draft.


A look at the Impact’s draft picks tell you one thing. Montreal did some serious work during the college season. Fernando Monge and Paolo DelPiccolo were two impressive players during the college season, and DelPiccolo could wind up being a steal after skipping the Combine to go on trial in Germany. If he winds up signing with the Impact then Montreal’s grade goes up a full mark to a B.

Montreal’s selection of Blake Smith at No. 8 felt like an early pick (he seemed more likely to fall to the 12-15 range), but even with his disappointing MLS Combine Smith remained arguably the best pure winger in the draft and he could wind up playing considerable minutes as a rookie. He will need to in order for Montreal’s draft grade to rise beyond average.


The Union came in with just two second-round picks, and succeeded in landing a good left-footed player in Don Anding, who could wind up filling a need at left back. Stephen Okai is a skilled central midfielder who the Union know well, and who could help provide some depth in place of Freddy Adu, who is on the way out of Philadelphia.

The Union’s first-round pick went to Vancouver last season in the trade to acquire Bakary Soumare. An injury-hit first season for Soumare makes the Union’s overal 2013 draft haul rather unimpressive, but Soumare will be back in 2013 to show he was worth a pick that wound up being Vancouver selection Erik Hurtado.


The Hoops landed an absolute steal with Walker Zimmerman as the No. 7 overall pick despite the fact you could argue Zimmerman was talented enough to be the No. 1 pick.

So why only a C? It’s simple. FC Dallas just might have wasted a No. 20 overall pick on UCLA midfielder Ryan Hollingshead, who skipped the MLS Combine to take part in a charity mission and looks set to pass on a pro soccer career to pursue charity work. Dallas is convinced it can talk him into playing, and Schellas Hyndman claims FC Dallas rated him as one of the top players in the draft (if so, they would be in the small minority who felt that way). The pick was a high risk, low reward gamble when there was plenty of good talent still on the board.


The Fire’s only pick in the draft was a project in Yazid Atouba Emane, a speedy Cameroonian winger who showed good glimpses at the draft, but is very much a wild card. It was a quiet draft day for Chicago, but remember they traded the No. 11 overall pick to land veteran midfielder Jeff Larentowicz.


The Goats got the player they wanted in Carlos Alvarez, a promising attacking midfielder who fits the team’s mandate for Mexican-American talent (and he’s also the son of a former Chivas Guadalara player as well).

So why the D? Aside from the fact the Goats desperately needed defensive help, Alvarez was widely-regarded as a player who was destined to fall in the 10-15 range in the draft if Chivas USA didn’t take him, and the Goats squandered a chance to trade down and accrue some valuable allocation money. Toronto FC capitalized on the Goats’ failure by pulling off their own deals to trade down.


  1. Paolo DelPiccolo is now training whit the Montreal Impact. He played a reserve game against Dallas today and looked like a man among boys. IMFC drafted a great player !

  2. I’m just loooooving how upset people are getting because of the poor grades Ives is assigning. Why is it so personal, people? My team got a B-, whooptie freaking doo.

    • The team’s past drafts have no bearing on their grade for THIS draft. Yes, Arena’s track record is good, but that doesn’t automatically start you out with a high grade. You’re measured by the picks you make.

      • The major responsibility of the coach is player selection for the team. I believe that is Dan’s point: Arena’s track record is outstanding. If your opinion differs from his, well, so be it. I will always go with Arena’s opinion because he is selecting based on the player’s development trajectory, not how the player plays at the current moment.

      • Outstanding does not mean infallible. Arena took Paolo Cardozo in the first round of the 2011 draft, and took him ahead of the likes of Michael Farfan and Stephen McCarthy. Obviously nobody is perfect, and the notion that Arena’s picks can never be questioned because he has a great drafting track record is a bit much.

      • Galaxy are just so ridiculously deep. None of their draft picks will get significant minutes, unless you count Zardes. And even he will be battling with Jose Villareal for time up top once Donovan comes back. The fact is, Arena has the luxury of selecting “project” players and “role” players, while other teams have to try to reach for “star” “immediate impact” guys. So you’re right to feel underwhelmed by their draft picks. We can discuss further when the Galaxy raise their third consecutive MLS Cup this coming autumn!

    • Cooper doesn’t factor into their draft-day grade. If you include Cooper then sure, you give them an A, but I wasn’t including past trades. These grades are based solely on what they did with the picks they had on draft day. It’s grades for the actual draft as it happened last Thursday.

      • Gotchya. I was just asking since you said “…New York did very well to maximize value from their 2013 draft.” So I took that to mean it was a consideration.

  3. Ives, you commented in the intro material that the grades are really irrelevant and the truth of the matter won’t really become known for 2-3 yrs. So, please go back 3 yrs and give grades to the selections made then. How well did the teams do?

  4. Ives:
    Another great piece on mls to keep us busy while we’re waiting for the season to start. But obviously, it’s all a guess as to how smart or poor the picks are at this point. I’m sure you don’t have any other projects that you’re working on, but a great article would be to look back say 2-5 years and grade management on how well their picks actually turned out.

  5. I think SBI is a little harsh on DCU. I wouldn’t blame DCU for passing on Kory Kindle and Drew Beckie since none of the MLS teams picked them in the first round.

    • None of the teams that picked before D.C. were in the market for a left back so it’s not really a good measure to say that because nobody else picked Kindle and Beckie that D.C. didn’t take the wrong guy. It wasn’t a bad pick, and could wind up a great pick if he recaptures his 2011 form, but if he doesn’t, the grade I gave them will look generous.

      • Thanks for responding and explaining your reasoning, Ives. I understand you better now. There is always risk, particularly with lower picks in the draft. I think that DCU most likely viewed Kemp as a lesser risk than the other left backs. Kemp performed quite well at the combine and many observers proclaimed him the most MLS ready back after the event. Plus, DCU regularly scouts the University of Maryland games so they had extensive information about the player they picked. He had two injuries in 2012 (sports hernia and hip abductor), which prevented him from replicating his 2011 season form, but he came back (probably playing through pain) and helped his team. DCU made good draft picks in the last few years (De Leon, Kitchen, Korb, Willis, Pontius, Wallace) so I personally would give their front office the benefit of the doubt.

      • I think Kemp could wind up being a great pick. I had him rated very highly coming into the year, but he looked really shaky later in the year after returning from injury. If he returns to his 2011 form then that pick could look great, and DC’s grade could wind up being a solid B or B+, but until he does that’s the grade I’ll give them. I also don’t buy into the “They’ve drafted well before so you have to give their latest picks the benefit of the doubt” logic. Every team makes mistakes at some point.

  6. On Houston, I’m going to be interested how Johnson works with Kinnear. Though we have been bringing a lot of Jamaicans through the team, Palmer has already been traded out, and Watson grumbled in the Jamaican players about Kinnear’s distaste for freelancing. He too hasn’t played much over time. I like Taylor but he took forever to break into the team. Kinnear has been rough on players he perceives as not buying into our team approach and work ethic, including Koke (released) and Dixon, an interesting player he’s never let break in much despite single handedly beating RSL a couple years back. So while the conventional wisdom may be that Kinnear has a support group for Johnson here, I’m going to be interested if that motivates a player criticized for showing up to the combine unfit, and whom the book on him was he takes plays off. That may work out well or he may be Kinnear’s worst nightmare.

    Far as Nealis goes, I wish I knew how fast he is, and we’ll see how good he is. The Dynamo are a modest seed right now because it’s an ageing team with a flawed defense. We execute well in the playoffs and play a style built for postseason advancement, but I think LAG exposed a swiss cheese problem in the back that was popping up every few games all season. I think the defense needs to get more athletic, and well basically just more effective. “Defense first” team can’t give up 41 goals.

    IMO Creavalle is ready to play back for Houston but Kinnear has blinders on.

  7. I think LA was high on Rugg, obviously. I think they got word that New England was planning on grabbing the Boston College product, Rugg, with either the 21st or 23rd picks. LA picked again at 24th. New England went on to select two forward using those picks. LA must of known it was now or never, at the 19th pick, for Rugg.

  8. Good job Ives. I think a piece at the end of the season where you do the same thing after we get to see them play would be cool too. You know, see who was picked too high and who the steals were. Anyways, good stuff.

  9. I like how everyone is arguing that this team or that team deserved a higher grade. Everybody gets an A! And a gold star! Now finish up your juice before nap time kids.

    • this is a fine place for soccer debate, to vent about your team…and the grades represent a scale of draft performance. i’m cool if you don’t think it’s enjoyable, or find it childish to be interested in stuff like that, but speaking down to people for debating a quality critique?

      • That’s not what I’m doing at all?
        I’m making the point that people find the rating for their favorite team, and then complain that it’s too low. No one is like “my team should be lower!” even though pretty much none of us know very much about these selections.
        Look at the grades, there is plenty of “grade inflation” already. But people will complain about Cs because they’re not As. So the only solution is As for everyone like in little league when every player got a trophy.

      • i hear ya now. i guess i don’t look at it that way. i feel people seem to be giving good enough reasons for why they agree/disagree. i sided with a higher nyrb rank above, even though i could care less about them as a rapids fan.

  10. Chicago Fire a C-, not to be rude, but this is a player that has been a star of Cameroonian youth national teams, and was thir best player in the 2011 World youth cup. Grading Chicago to C- with this pick shows a bit of ignorance towards a country that has produced a lot of quality players. To me it’s a shocker that he wasn’t picked earlier. Seems to me that the clubs haven’t done their scouting well enough as this is the best left winger in the draft. Considering he can play behid the striker and on the roght he should have gone in the top 5 picks. Chicago has done a steal and should have had an A with that pick.

    • I’m familiar with his CV, having been shown a copy of it before the Combine. If he winds up being a star then good for the Fire but to suggest he’s a lock to be an impact player in MLS based on some youth national team success in Africa is a stretch.

      As for the “best left winger in the draft” comment, I’d bet good money on Blake Smith being better than Atouba.

      • Not to be rude, but that comment actually shows the ignorance I’m talking about. The thing is that reading trough a copy of his CV, and commenting He didn’t only play well in some youth national matches in Africa. In the 2001 WYC he was the star of a Cameroonian team that held the bronze medal winner Mexico to penalties, and without bad luck they should have won that match. USA didn’t even mange to qualify for that tournament. If you also consider the fact that Camroon has produced quite a bigger number of players performing in Europe compared to the USA, you are either over valuing the other players in the draft, or by far undervaluing Atouba. He should have been picked in the top 5 that is for sure.

      • Um… 2001 WYC?

        That’s a frickin’ long time ago. If he’s soooo good, he wouldn’t have been looking for work via the MLS Superdraft.

      • Um… 2001 WYC?

        That’s a frickin’ long time ago. If he’s soooo good, he wouldn’t have been looking for work via the MLS Superdraft.

      • Not to be rude, but that comment actually shows the ignorance I’m talking about. The thing is that reading trough a copy of his CV, and commenting isn’t the receipy for a good judgement.He didn’t only play well in some youth national matches in Africa. In the 2001 WYC he was the star of a Cameroonian team that held the bronze medal winner Mexico to penalties, and without bad luck they should have won that match. USA didn’t even mange to qualify for that tournament. If you also consider the fact that Camroon has produced quite a bigger number of players performing in Europe compared to the USA, you are either over valuing the other players in the draft, or by far undervaluing Atouba. He should have been picked in the top 5 that is for sure.

      • Not to be rude, but that comment actually shows the ignorance I’m talking about. The thing is that reading trough a copy of his CV, and commenting isn’t the receipy for a good judgement.He didn’t only play well in some youth national matches in Africa. In the 2011 WYC he was the star of a Cameroonian team that held the bronze medal winner Mexico to penalties, and without bad luck they should have won that match. USA didn’t even mange to qualify for that tournament. If you also consider the fact that Camroon has produced quite a bigger number of players performing in Europe compared to the USA, you are either over valuing the other players in the draft, or by far undervaluing Atouba. He should have been picked in the top 5 that is for sure.

  11. excellent wrap up, ives!

    that chivas move, or non-move, is really weird to me the more i think about it. were they trying to make some kind of statement that may have gone over my head, or were they genuinely worried someone in the top 5 was taking him? did it possibly not even cross their minds??

    • Yeah, good stuff.

      The Hollingshead pick is a real head scratcher. FCD is a developing train wreck. I don’t blame Shea for wanting out.

    • I know people are saying they could have traded down and likely still gotten the same guy, but they were probably dealing in absolutes, and they could only ensure getting one of the two by staying #2, which mathematically guarantees the desired result no matter who drafts whom.

      It’s just a highly conservative response to the directive to essentially sign either Lopez or Alvarez. On that basis I think the pick rises or falls with the player’s performance, just like any other time a team is so obsessed with a player they won’t move down. If he’s great staying #2 will be judged a smart if conservative approach. But if he doesn’t pan out much they’ll get criticized as racist or nationalist, or as here judged for being unwilling to trade down and leverage the pick into a consideration plus the player at a later choice.

  12. Why is it that Portland get bonus points for trading a player they were going to wave for a second round draft pick but no negatives for having previously traded away their first round pick for a player they dropped after a year and had to buy out his contract?

    • Who said Portland got bonus points? I just pointed out how smart their move was. They got a B+ for landing a centerback worthy of a first-round grade in the second round.

      • If Mikey Lopez had slipped to the second round and RBNY had snatched him up then maybe I would have given them a B+/A, but they snagged a player who was right about a 20-25 value at pick 22. For me, getting a high grade comes with landing a player who was much more valuable than the pick he went at, based on my ratings, and based on that, Christianson was a solid but not amazing pick-up.

    • Well, while I think Christianson was a solid college player, and can fill a need, I’m not sold on his upside. I suppose I could have given NY A B- instead of a C+ but ultimately I didn’t.


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