The 2021 MLS Draft is just four days away, and more trades and signings have helped clear up the possibilities of how Thursday’s first round will shake out.
The Generation adidas class should officially expand to five players this week, with sources confirming to SBI that University of Washington defender Ethan Bartlow and University of Virginia midfielder/fullback Bret Halsey have signed GA deals to bring the class to five players, four of which could be the first four players taken off the board.
SBI’s latest MLS Draft Big Board dropped on Saturday, and features our Top 50 prospects for Thursday’s draft. Look for a final Draft Big Board on Wednesday, along with our final two-round MLS Mock Draft.
Here is the second edition of the SBI 2021 MLS Mock Draft:
SBI 2021 MLS Mock Draft
1- Austin FC – Philip Mayaka, CM, Clemson
Austin has a decision to make between Philip Mayaka and Calvin Harris. The expansion side is believed to be very high on Mayaka, but Harris is the most coveted attacking prospect in the field. Having a second first-round pick to find an attacking option could make it easier to make Mayaka the Generation adidas pick first overall.
2- FC Cincinnati- Calvin Harris, F, Wake Forest
Cincinnati is overflowing with needs, but as much as drafting a centerback would be understandable for a team that badly needs some, passing on a talent like Harris would be difficult. Now, if Austin selects Calvin Harris then things could get interesting because Philip Mayaka might not be an automatic for Cincinnati, which has Frankie Amaya as a talented young central midfielder. Trading the pick, or grabbing Ethan Bartlow to address central defense could be options.
3- Houston Dynamo – Ethan Bartlow, CB, Washington
The Dynamo are in dire need of defensive reinforcements and Bartlow is regarded as the best defender in the draft. He may not be as fast or athletic as the Dynamo may be after, so Nabi Kibunguchy would make more sense as a fit, but Bartlow’s Generation adidas status and technical quality make him a good option. Houston could also trade this pick to a team that covets Daniel Pereira.
4- D.C. United – Daniel Pereira, CM, Virginia Tech
Attacking depth is an area of need for D.C. United and Pereira is the best available prospect, though the big question is where does he best fit positionally? Clemson’s Kimarni Smith is also high on D.C. United’s radar, while Ed Kizza is an appealing striker option.
5- Atlanta United- Josh Bauer, CB, New Hampshire
Atlanta United is high on Bauer and will jump at the chance to take him if he is available. If someone else snatches him up, then Nabi Kibunguchy would make sense to help provide some depth in central defense.
6- Colorado Rapids- Ed Kizza, F, Pittsburgh
The Rapids could use some striker depth and Kizza is a top talent who would arguably have been a top 2-3 pick before missing the 2020 season for Pittsburgh due to undisclosed reasons.
7- Real Salt Lake – Kimarni Smith, F/W, Clemson
The trading of Corey Baird makes adding some winger depth another area of need for a rebuilding Real Salt Lake side and Smith can fill both a wide role and forward role.
8- Portland Timbers – Josh Drack, Denver
The departures of Jorge Villafana and Marco Farfan have left Portland’s once stacked left back options thin, and while Gavin Wilkinson is likely working the international market for reinforcements, landing a good left-footed option in the draft would be useful. Enter Drack, a converted winger who shows all the signs of being able to make an effective transition to pro left back. The Timbers could also grab Bret Halsey with this pick.
9- Vancouver Whitecaps – Nabi Kibunguchy, CB, UC-Davis
The Whitecaps have two first-round picks and don’t need to be position-specific, so the best talent available is Kibunguchy, who could wind up going as high as third overall, but who could slip given the number of comparable quality centerback options available. Kibunguchy played more as a midfielder in college, but projects as an athletic ball-playing central defender.
10- Inter Miami – Aime Mabika, CB, Kentucky
Mabika is an athletic 6-foot-6 centerback who combines intelligence with his obvious physical tools. He isn’t as technical as the top-tier central defenders in this draft, but teams that see his considerable upside will jump at the chance to mold him into a dominant force.
11- Austin FC – Josh Penn, F, Indiana
This Mock Draft has Philip Mayaka going with Austin’s first pick, making an attacking threat like Penn a good fit with Austin’s second first-round selection. He is quick, can beat defenders on the dribble and can combine well, and Penn is also one of the younger prospects in the pool, so he has the kind of long-term potential an expansion team will covet.
12- San Jose – David Egbo, F, Akron
After bidding farewell to Danny Hoesen, the Earthquakes can use some striker depth, and Egbo a big forward who is different from what Matias Almeyda currently has on his roster.
13- New York Red Bulls – Bret Halsey, RB, Virginia
The Red Bulls will jump for joy if Halsey slips to them at 13. Projected as a right back on the pro level, the college central midfielder has the work rate and tenacity to fit in well into the Red Bulls’ pressing system. If Halsey is gone by this pick, then the Red Bulls could grab Maryland’s Matt Di Rosa.
14- Los Angeles FC – Logan Panchot, RB, Stanford
Some fullback depth would be good for Bob Bradley’s side and Panchot is the kind of technically skilled and intelligent player who could thrive in LAFC’s system.
15- FC Dallas – Talen Maples, CB, SMU
Some central defense depth would suit FC Dallas at this pick and Maples is a Texas native who has trained with Luchi Gonzalez’s team before. A defensive midfielder in his last season at SMU, Maples is strong in possession and a sharp passer, and while he doesn’t have the size of some other centerback prospects in this pool, he could be a good stylistic fit for the type of soccer Gonzalez plays.
16- LA Galaxy – Justin McMaster, F/W, Wake Forest
If one of the top central defender prospects slips then the Galaxy could consider taking one, but McMaster is an enticing attacking prospect. He has Top 10 talent but his draft stock is hurt by the fact he is coming off a torn ACL suffered in November of 2019. McMaster has the power/speed combination along with good passing skills and excellent finishing to be a steal at this pick, and can give the Galaxy some needed depth on the wing.
17- New York City FC – Matt Di Rosa, LB, Maryland
Ronald Matarrita’s departure means some left back depth could be useful for NYCFC and DiRosa is one of the best prospects available. A former midfielder, he can pass well and is a steady defender. Aedan Stanley is another option.
18 – Toronto FC – Aedan Stanley, LB, Duke
TFC can use some left back depth, so unless Ali Curtis has plans to add a left back via the international market, then grabbing one here makes sense. Stanley is a former U.S. Under-20 prospect and has more experience as a fullback than some of the other converted midfielders available in the draft.
19 – Orlando City – Louis Perez, CM, Central Florida
Perez is a technically gifted central midfield talent who has the tools to play as a rookie, but the two things working against him as a draft prospect are his international status and the fact teams are more accustomed to filling his position with high-priced foreign options. The Frenchman has Top 10 skill, but shouldn’t fall past Orlando City, which will know him well enough to know passing on him at this pick would be foolish.
20 – Nashville SC – Derek Dodson, F, Georgetown
The defend and counter style Nashville SC deployed so successfully in its first season is a perfect setup for someone with Dodson’s skill set. He can operate on the wing or as a striker, and has the size-speed combination and polish to contribute as a rookie.
21 – Colorado Rapids – Michael DeShields, CB, Wake Forest
Deshields is a tough, smart and technical central defender who could very easily be a Top 15 selection. His decision to sign a USL contract with New England’s affiliate was a head-scratcher, but unless the Revs trade up, it seems a good bet someone will grab DeShields before New England picks at 24.
22 – Orlando City – Justin Malou, CB/RB, Clemson
Depth at fullback is always a good thing, and while Ruan is an excellent right back, adding someone as an understudy with Malou’s physical gifts would be a sharp addition by Oscar Pareja. Malou has the speed-power profile to fit in well with the Lions.
23 – Vancouver Whitecaps – Avionne Flanagan, LB, South Florida
The Whitecaps have one of the league’s best left backs in Ali Adnan, but with international duty looming with Iraq in 2021, Adnan might have to miss games, making adding someone as talented as Flanagan a wise choice. Flanagan has the speed and passing ability to be an effective option in Marc Dos Santos’ setup.
24 – N.E. Revolution – Colin Shutler, GK, Virginia
The Revolution don’t have many glaring needs, but some goalkeeper depth wouldn’t be a bad idea, especially considering Matt Turner’s rapid rise and potential international duty/transfer possibilities. Shutler is the consensus top goalkeeper in the draft, and would be reunited with former UVA teammate Henry Kessler, who he reached an NCAA final with in 2019.
25 – Minnesota United – Danny Trejo, F, CSU-Northridge
Adrian Heath loves himself a forward, and Trejo is a talented goal-scorer with plenty of skill. Syracuse striker Luther Archimede is another intriguing forward Heath could be tempted to grab, though the Loons could also look for some fullback depth, with Jasper Loeffelsend and Javain Brown on the board.
26 – Inter Miami – Javain Brown, RB, South Florida
Dylan Nealis is still very much a top right back prospect for Inter Miami after selecting him third overall in the 2020 MLS Draft, but adding another right back for some depth wouldn’t be a bad idea and Brown has a dynamic attacking quality and personality that makes him a much different option than Nealis.
27 – Columbus Crew – Jasper Loeffelsend, RB, Pittsburgh
After bolstering their attack with the additions of Kevin Molino and Bradley Wright-Phillips, the Crew can look to add some defensive depth here, and Loeffelsend is a quick and tenacious fullback who has the sort of mentality that could help him thrive under Caleb Porter.