Major League Soccer’s SuperDraft is tomorrow and the Fire have picks No. 3 and 11.
The combine concluded today with each of the thrown together teams playing three matches in five days. The draft is set to start at 2 p.m. and will be streamed on MLSSoccer.com via YouTube. It is taking place in Los Angeles, nearby where the combine took place at the LA Galaxy's StubHub Center. The first two rounds are Friday while rounds three and four will take place via conference call on Tuesday.
After trading out of the second round to move up in the allocation order to sign Juninho on loan, the Fire have four draft picks. The two first rounders and one each in the third round (No. 47 overall) and fourth round (No. 69).
Who are the top prospects?
It depends on where you read (like here or here), but Duke’s Jeremy Ebobisse, UCLA’s Abu Danladi and Syracuse’s Miles Robinson are widely regarded as the top three prospects. All three are Generation adidas players, meaning they are underclassmen who don’t count against the cap.
The two incoming expansion teams, Minnesota and Atlanta, have the top two picks in the draft. With the third pick, the Fire would have the chance to get at least one of these players or go for someone different like Akron freshman Jonathan Lewis, who had spent some time in the Fire’s academy.
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What are the Fire’s needs entering the draft?
General manager Nelson Rodriguez has talked about the need to improve the team’s midfield, but it didn’t sound like a draft pick was what he had in mind. One highly-rated midfield option is UCLA product Jackson Yueill.
Right back remains a need, certainly in terms of depth if not a starting need, with Rodrigo Ramos not with the team anymore. Chris Odoi-Atsem out of Maryland is one of the top prospects at that position, but might be a bit of a reach with the third pick. If he is still available, he could be an option at No. 11.
The Fire could decide to take a flyer on a goalkeeper, but that might be something the team does with a third or fourth round pick if they liked someone to compete the third goalkeeper spot in camp.
It would be a minor surprise if the Fire take a forward with the third pick because that’s the one position the Fire have depth in terms of numbers. Ebobisse is the only outright forward of the top prospects. Danladi could also play on the wing, which is another point of need for the Fire.
In terms of drafting for need vs. best player available, Rodriguez said on Wednesday that they haven’t determined that balance yet.
“(We are) constantly reevaluating best player or greater need,” Rodriguez said. “Ultimately we’re going to have to make a decision because the draft is likely to come before we successfully close another player that we’re trying to acquire. There is an impact, an inexact science. We also have to measure the fit at 11, which is another selection to have. If we opt to fill a positional need at three, do we hold our breath that perhaps a player that we may have ranked higher, but had less of a need for is still there at 11 or vice versa? We have not made our decision yet.”
Keep in mind the Fire don’t have any international slots open currently. That should make it less likely for the Fire to draft a foreign player in the draft. If the Fire make a trade on draft day, Rodriguez made three last year, an international slot could be something the Fire look for in return.
Will the Fire make any trades?
On the topic of trades, that’s always a chance with Rodriguez in charge. He set the tone for a crazy draft last year by trading first pick Jack Harrison to New York City FC, the first time the first pick had ever been traded on draft day, and later made two more trades to wind up with Brandon Vincent and Jonathan Campbell in the first round.
Rodriguez said that trading up or down is an option, but didn’t give much detail to which way he is leaning.
“We have our plan built out for the SuperDraft,” Rodriguez said. “We have contingencies and we have options built within that plan. We think there’s a depth of talent that we feel very good about our selections at No. 3 and No. 11. Of course we will consider all options made available to us. That might even include trading up or trading down.”