After weeks of talk and months of scouting, the 2015 MLS SuperDraft has finally come to a close. Toronto FC had a number of first round picks, Seattle stole a sliding star and a day that is usually jam-packed with last-second trades actually went by pretty smoothly in 2015. Now that the dust has settled in Philadelphia, let’s take a look at some of the teams that performed best at the 2015 MLS SuperDraft.
Orlando On Top
We’ll start with Orlando, who started off the draft with an easy pick in U-Conn forward Cyle Larin at first overall. Larin is, bar none, the best player available at the draft. He’s a Generation Adidas player, meaning his salary would not count against the salary cap of whichever team selected him, an advantage for an expansion franchise like Orlando. He is also a full Canadian international, something few players can say at the draft.
But, Orlando didn’t stop there. The new club then drafted another Generation Adidas player with their first pick in the second round, Conor Donovan, from North Carolina State, a player they surely did not anticipate picking up that late in the draft. Donovan was considered one of the best central defenders available, making Orlando double winners on the day, to the delight of their fans, who packed the room in Philadelphia.
Portland’s “Professional” Player
The Portland Timbers entered the draft with a relatively high first round pick at fifth overall and took the no-fuss option, drafting Nick Besler from Notre Dame. If you’re wondering why that name sounds somewhat familiar, it’s because Nick is the younger brother of Sporting Kansas City and U.S. men’s national team central defender Matt Besler.
Nick is a central midfielder who showed well in the combine and Portland head coach Caleb Porter will hope this younger Besler will mature into a DP-quality player just like his older brother. Porter was impressed with Nick Besler’s attitude, saying he’s “already thinking like a pro,” making this pick a good one from Portland.
Seattle Sounders’ Sliding Star
Before the MLS SuperDraft took place the general consensus was that University of Washington midfielder Cristian Roldan would be a top three pick. This attacking midfielder showed attacking flair and vision last season and was also a Generation Adidas player. This made Roldan an attractive option on the draft board, but evidently not attractive enough, as Roldan wasn’t in the top three picks.
Nor was he in the top five selections, when the question began to creep up: how far is this kid going to slide? There were questions about his versatility, with some coaches saying he didn’t offer much outside of attacking midfield. Roldan continued to slide, missing out in the top 10, then the top 15, before the Seattle Sounders picked him at 16 overall. Seattle is one of a handful of teams in MLS that utilize an attacking midfielder, though, so Roldan might have ended up in a better situation that he was expecting.
New York, New York
With the second overall pick in the first round, new expansion franchise New York City F.C. ended up drafting exactly who they wanted, though it took some time to get there. New York City was on the clock but took a five-minute time-out before ultimately selecting Khiry Shelton from Oregon State. Shelton is a big striker with a lot of potential and gives New York another attacking option beside David Villa up top.
But, it was the San Jose Earthquakes who missed out, after head coach Dominic Kinnear revealed he had been trying to make a trade with New York for the No. 4 pick and allocation money. Instead, New York spurned San Jose’s advances and picked who they wanted, leaving the Earthquakes at No. 4 overall. San Jose selected Fatai Alashe, a good player, no doubt, but clearly San Jose’s second choice.
Over at the other New York table, the Red Bulls made an interesting selection at No. 18 overall, picking up Leo Stolz from UCLA. Now, Stolz would be a very high pick under normal circumstances; he was, perhaps, the single best player in the college draft class. But before the draft, Stolz reportedly had options in Europe and rumor had it that he would only be interested in playing in Los Angeles or New York should he sign with MLS at all. If the Red Bulls can pull it off and sign him, then the club is the big winner on the day, but if not, the Red Bulls might just have wasted a pick.
Toronto FC’s Trio
Finally, let’s talk about Toronto FC.
The Canadian club entered the draft with three first round draft picks at Nos. 6, 9 and 11, and after a full year of scouting, head coach Greg Vanney and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko knew exactly which players they wanted. At pick No. 6, Toronto FC scooped up Generation Adidas goalkeeper Alex Bono from Syracuse, who was with the U.S. national team camp. Picking up a young U.S. international goalkeeper at No. 6, one who is expected to compete with Joe Bendik in the first-team, might have just been the best pick of the day.
Then, Toronto FC surprised everyone by taking North Carolina State’s French defender Clement Simonin at No. 9 overall. Simonin is a left-footed central defender but was a very strange pick that no one saw coming. Vanney later said that they had seen enough of him before he picked up a season-ending injury to warrant his selection and Toronto might just have stolen a talent under everyone else’s nose here.
At No. 11, Toronto FC drafted a local talent from Syracuse in Skylar Thomas. This big, burling central defender is a Toronto native and gives Toronto a replacement for Doneil Henry, whom they sold to West Ham United in the English Premier League. With three picks, Toronto FC fulfilled its desire to double up on the number of players on its roster acquired through the draft and with a new B-team in USL Pro joining this season, these three will have plenty of chances to prove themselves on the field, too.