By Andrew Chaput
The MLS Superdraft is back and this year it is being hosted in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. The MLS Superdraft began in 1996, and one of the most notable number one picks was Freddy Adu (2004). In 1996, there were only 10 teams, today there are 23. It shows how much the game in the US over the past 22 years, and every year the draft puts more players full of young talent into the league. In this years draft, the #1 overall pick and #3 overall pick belonged to the new club, Los Angeles FC. The number three pick was acquired from D.C. United. #2 went to the LA Galaxy, #4 to FC Dallas – acquired via the Montreal Impact and #5 to the Chicago Fire – acquired via Minnesota United FC.
#1. Joao Moutinho – Defender – Akron – LAFC
Joao Moutinho is a brilliant left back who can really be a defensive centre midfielder. He was just a freshman this past season and was the number one overall pick in the MLS draft, that says how much potential is upon this kids shoulders. He has phenomenal composure on the ball, and has tremendous vision and can pick you apart when he drives forward with the ball. For a rather normal size fullback, he is better than he appears in the air, as well as defensively when it comes to one versus one defending.
#2. Tomas Hilliard-Arce – Defender – Standford – LA Galaxy
Tomas Hilliard-Arce, who we will just refer to as Tomas, was a stud centre-back for Stanford, and is a handful on set pieces. If there is ever a corner from the left hand side, Tomas is going to be sent up into the box and will put his head on it. He is a great cornerstone to rebuild that atrocious back line of the Galaxy. He was on Stanford when they won the NCAA National Title, and brings a lot of experience to LA as a rookie.
#3. Tristan Blackmon – Defender – University of Pacific – LAFC
Tristan Blackmon is a tall, stud defender who is great at breaking up passes and turning momentum on quick turnovers. He can drive at defenders and hold them off with his speed. These two fullbacks (Moutinho) will help build a solid foundation for LAFC, and will create big expectations as the former newest club, Atlanta United, seems to be pushing as the favorite heading into this year.
#4. Francis Atuahene – Forward – Michigan – FC Dallas
Francis Atuahene for many was the #1 prospect and potential overall pick heading into the draft. He is the most explosive player in this class, and has a knack for being the right place right time in the box. He can shoot well with both feet, and has a lot of power on the ball. Some concern as to his ability to stay healthy and remain on the pitch, he is a steal for the fourth overall pick.
#5. Jon Bakero – Forward – Wake Forest – Chicago Fire
Jon Bakero plays centre forward and is a really good holdup player. He can roll off defenders and is good at playing teammates in behind. Bakero is also good in front of goal, scoring 37 goals in his Wake Forest career. He will be a good addition to Chicago Fire, who will be building off of their bounce back season from last year.
Atlanta Sign Ezequiel Barco
Atlanta United FC has signed 18 year old, Ezequiel Barco, from Independiente – an Argentine club. Barco cost Atlanta $15 million, more than the payroll of all but two clubs in the MLS. He is from Argentina, and will be heading to the US to hopefully expand his career and brand, and become a star.
Barco roams the midfield, does a great job working off of defenders, and creates opportunities for his team in the attacking third. He has two great strengths, one is getting the ball in tight areas and being able to dribble out of it. Barco moves very well laterally when he receives the ball, and if it’s too crowded of a situation, will retreat backwards with the ball five to ten yards. His second strength, is being able to drive at players in the final third, and either play teammates through or draw fouls in dangerous positions.
He tends to lead his teammates a little far on through balls, but for the most part he is highly accurate. As far as being elusive – Barco lets the defenders think they can get there first, and then in a split second touches the ball past the defender’s leg and draws contact. Lots of free kicks, this will be another way to increase the scoring opportunities for Atlanta.
Chris Pontius Signs With The Galaxy
Chris Pontius is a 30 year old veteran who I could have sworn has been in the league for at least the last 15 years. During his years at D.C. United he bullied people off of the ball to score goals by being in the right place at the right time. Pontius is coming off of two good (healthy) years with the Philadelphia Union and earned the Comeback Player of the Year in 2016. He is originally from southern California, and who know’s could potentially finish his career there. The years and the amount of the contract have yet to have been displayed. Pontius will be able to bring a veteran presence to the locker room, along the side of a rebuilding squad with the likes of Ola Kamara and Giovani dos Santos.
Nick Rimando Resigns With Real Salt Lake
Nick Rimando has resigned with Real Salt Lake and returns for a 12th season. The veteran goalkeeper leads the MLS in almost ever statistical category; starts – 452, appearances – 452, wins – 196, and shutouts – 137. Before he played with Real Salt Lake, he played for Miami and D.C. United. One thing is for sure, goalkeepers can play forever when they take care of themselves. Rimando has done that and more, he has 22 caps with the US Men’s National Team. He brings experience and consistency every time he steps on the field. Rimando didn’t appear flashing at the beginning of his career, but as he continued getting experience, he got more and more steady. He at one point made five consecutive All-Star game appearances during a stretch in the middle of his career, and every year since is strongly considered. For whatever, All-Star games are worth – they are not a major award but put the players in a light where they are compared among one another within their divisions (or however the games are set up that year). Rimando relies more on positioning lately and thats how he withstands long seasons, and overall a long career.
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