The 2020 MLS Draft is technically still taking place, currently on hiatus as teams prepare for Monday’s conference call to finish off the final two rounds of the draft. Whatever happens on that call isn’t likely to change which teams are going to emerge as the biggest overall draft-day winners.
Time will tell which teams fared the best with their selections in Thursday’s MLS Draft, but for the moment we can definitely take a moment to evaluate which teams were able to stag the most promising prospects, and which teams took full advantage of the talent pool available.
Here are the biggest winners and losers on draft day:
Draft day went as well as the expansion team could have hoped for, finding top defensive prospect Jack Maher at number two overall before wheeling and dealing to scoop up a pair of first-round picks. Alistair Johnston and Elliott Panicco were two of the draft’s best prospects at their position,
The $125,000 outlay of allocation money for two top prospects was a bargain, and Nashville only needs one of them to pan out to come away ahead. Selecting Nashville native Tanner Dieterich in the second round was an added bonus.
Inter Miami CF
Robbie Robinson was the best attacking prospect in the draft, so taking him first overall was a smart and largely easy decision, but Miami gets credit for spending the $150,000 in allocation money to secure the third overall pick to grab Jimmy Nealis, an excellent fullback who is arguably the most pro-ready prospect in the draft.
Sometimes luck helps teams come away winners, but you also need to be able to capitalize on that luck, and the Lions did just that when Daryl Dike fell to them at the fifth overall pick. Orlando City could have chosen to shy away from Dike after having added young forwards Santiago Patino and Benji Michel just last year, but saw the value in Dike as a prospect and pounced.
The Lions picked up some very enticing prospects in the second round, in Wake Forest defensive midfielder Joey DeZart and local product Jonathan Dean, a sleeper at right back from Central Florida.
New England REVOLUTION
Bruce Arena has done enough drafts to know his way around draft day and that was clear on Thursday. Henry Kessler is a good defensive prospect who offers salary cap relief as a Generation adidas player. Dealing the number 13 overall pick for $100,000 in allocation was good business.
The second round could be where the Revs really come away big winners, grabbing right back Simon LeKressner and goalkeeper Keegan Meyer, two players who were among the better prospects at their positions.
For a team that already has an embarrassment of riches in the young player department, Dallas made out like bandits on draft day. Nkosi Burgess may have been a bit of a reach, but was still one of the better domestic centerback options in the draft, and can compete for a roster spot.
Dallas scored huge value in grabbing Cal Jennings 17th overall, a forward with excellent finishing ability. Luchi Gonzalez closed out the draft with an intriguing sleeper pick in Manuel Ferriol, who would have been a first-round option if he weren’t an international player, but has the skill to be a surprise second-round steal.
You would think a team that has traded away the chance to have Jack Harrison, Andre Shinyashiki and Chase Gasper in recent year’s drafts would have learned a lesson about trading away draft picks. Sure, $100,000 for the 10th overall pick isn’t bad business, but the Fire already have a pile of allocation money to work with and a plethora of roster spots to fill.
Jonathan Jimenez was a good pick-up with the last pick in the draft, and if Jimenez winds up being the better pro left back than Patrick Seagrist (who the Red Bulls took with the pick they bought from the Fire) then the Fire will be draft-day winners for the first time in ages.
We get it, the Union don’t rate the MLS Draft and don’t need it. At least that’s the narrative being pushed by a team that counts late-round steals Jack Elliott and Ray Gaddis as starters. That said, $50,000 for the 21st overall pick (the swap of allocation spots is marginal value at best) feels like a waste.
Does that mean number 21 pick Simon LeFebvre is going to succeed as a pro? Not necessarily, but you can rest assure a few players that went after 21st overall will wind up having been worth more than $50,000 in allocation.
All you need to know about the Impact’s draft is that they essentially traded away the ninth overall pick (Jeremy Kelly) for a lower price than two later picks went for (10th overall and 13th overall were traded for $100,000 each). For a team with plenty of needs, and with a draft featuring some good Canadian prospects, it felt like a throwaway of a good opportunity.
Sporting Kansas City
Sometimes a team’s draft-day demise is the result of old mistakes and decisions, and that’s the case with Sporting KC. When it traded a first-round overall pick for Krisztian Nemeth, it made sense at the time, and Nemeth had a decent 2019.
Unfortunately for Sporting KC, its 2019 season imploded, leading to that first-round pick becoming the sixth overall pick, which New England used to take a player in Henry Kessler who Sporting KC would probably love to have right now. As for Nemeth, he’s no longer with Sporting KC, not that Peter Vermes is shedding any tears for that lost draft pick with Alan Pulido in town now.
New York City FC
It’s tough to be too harsh on teams drafting late, but NYCFC’s selections were a bit curious. Jesus Perez is a skilled player, but it’s very tough to see him breaking through in NYCFC’s stacked midfield, and the track record of American attacking midfielders in the draft isn’t a great one. With the likes of Jonathan Jimenez, Jack Skahan and Simon Lekressner available, the pick felt like a reach, even at 22.
Second-round pick Felicien Dumas is an interesting left back prospect, but as an international player he too will find it extremely difficult to make NYCFC’s roster. He also went two picks before American forward Jack Hallahan, who could wind up being a steal for LAFC.