The 2019 MLS SuperDraft featured some familiar sights, like the Chicago Fire shipping off draft picks for allocation money, but also some new wrinkles, led by FC Cincinnati’s active stockpiling of picks. When the dust settled on Friday’s event, there were some clear-cut winners and some other teams that fell short.
This year’s draft was one focused on long-term potential rather than immediate help, a reality of the changing landscape of the American talent pool and the ever-improving MLS talent pool. Teams went into this year’s draft thinking about who could develop into starting options in the future, rather than who might be needed as a starter in 2019.
That makes rating the day’s winners a bit tougher, but there were some teams that clearly came out ahead after the 48 players were taken off the board. Here is a look at the teams that fared the best, and the picks we saw being the best and worst at the 2019 MLS draft:
Draft Day winners
FC CINCINNATI – Started off by keeping the first overall pick and selecting Frankie Amaya, a 19-year-old central midfielder with impressive technical skill, and one who could feature in the Under-20 World Cup. Landing Wake Forest right back Logan Gdula, the right back with the most potential in the draft, made their trade with Philadelphia for the Union’s entire collection of draft picks a success. Goalkeepers Jimmy Hague and Ben Lundt were two of the best in the pool, and the biggest sleeper pick could be Tommy McCabe, who dropped in the draft after a disappointing showing at the MLS combine.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION – The Revs couldn’t have imagined seeing both Tajon Buchanan and DeJuan Jones slip down to picks 9 and 11 before the draft began, but that scenario played out, giving New England the two best pure wingers in the draft. Buchanan was a top-three talent who saw his stock dip after a disappointing combine, while Jones was the fastest player in the draft and someone Brad Friedel will have the chance to develop into a difference-maker.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES – Selecting Siad Haji with the second overall pick was an easy enough call considering his impressive passing and possession ability, but then the Earthquakes struck second-round gold by selecting Sergio Rivas, a highly technical midfielder considered a top-10 talent, who slid once it was established he would count as an international due to his DACA status. The Earthquakes also added an athletic winger in Canadian Mamadi Camara late in the second round.
NEW YORK RED BULLS – The reigning MLS Supporters’ Shield winners weren’t exactly looking for starters on draft day, but they pulled in a good collection of defensive prospects they went into the draft coveting, led by UC Davis central defender Roy Boateng and versatile left-footed specialist Janos Loebe. Indiana right back Rece Buckmaster was considered a first-round value by some teams, and 6-foot-4 Hofstra defender Sean Nealis is someone they know well, giving the Red Bulls four players to groom for their high-pressing system, and to bolster their strong USL setup.
MINNESOTA UNITED – It may have felt weird to not see the Loons take a forward, but their selection of Dayne St. Clair could give them their goalkeeper of the future. Taking a left back with the qualities to develop into a starter in Chase Gasper put Adrian Heath’s team on this list, as did the second-round selection of athletic central midfielder Hassani Dotson.
Best pick values
AKEEM WARD – D.C. United had to be loving life when it watched the most pro-ready fullback in the draft fall to the 14th pick. Ward is capable of playing both right back and left back, making him an ideal replacement for injured D.C. fullback Oniel Fisher.
J.J. WILLIAMS – Few would have pegged Williams to be the last Generation Adidas player left on the board, but his slide to Columbus at 18 could wind up a blessing in disguise. He’ll join a coach in Caleb Porter who is good at working with young talent, and he’ll have a chance for some playing time right away as Gyasi Zardes’ primary back-up if he can impress in preseason.
TUCKER BONE – One of the stars of the MLS combine, Bone saw his draft stock lowered due to concerns about his Air Force commitments, but Bone insists he shouldn’t miss much, or any time, making him a steal at the 20th pick. He’s a sharp passer and dribbler and combines well, making him a player who could fit right into the Sounders attack.
JACOB HAUSER-RAMSEY – Forced to miss the MLS combine due to an injury, Hauser-Ramsey still figured to draw interest after an impressive showing at the Las Vegas combine. The Rapids scored a first-round talent with the 42nd overall pick.
CAMDEN RILEY – Sporting Kansas City landed a versatile player in Riley, who can play in a defensive midfield role or in central defense. His passing and size should give Peter Vermes something to work with as Riley looks to make a very tough SKC roster.
Worst pick values
GRIFFIN DORSEY – Toronto FC is no stranger to making head-scratching picks, and Dorsey was widely regarded as the lowest rated of the Generation Adidas players. When TFC selected him ahead of Buchanan, a Canadian winger with more attacking quality, it raised a few eyebrows. That isn’t to say Dorsey doesn’t have potential, but taking him sixth overall felt very early, especially given other options on the board.
SAM JUNQUA – Junqua’s value figured to rise after an impressive MLS combine, but the Dynamo taking him when John Nelson was still on the board was a serious head-scratcher. Junqua has the speed and defensive qualities to make Houston look smart, but it is a good bet the Dynamo could have drafted Junqua with the 33rd overall pick.
LUIS BARRAZA – New York City FC traded $75,000 in allocation money to move up seven spots to select Barraza, a player who was very likely to be available at the pick NYCFC traded. It’s clear NYCFC was impressed with Barraza’s passing and shot-stopping ability, but spending allocation money to reach for a smallish goalkeeper seemed an odd decision to say the least. Of course, if Barraza develops into the second coming of Nick Rimando then nobody will care about the allocation money spent to land him.
SAM BROWN – Real Salt Lake might have felt emboldened to take a flier on a long-shot due to all the talent it pulls from the academy ranks, but Brown was absolutely a player who could have been picked up in the second round, at the earliest.
EMIL CUELLO – The LA Galaxy did manage to pocket $75,000 in allocation money to move down seven spots, but selecting Cuello at 19 was a serious reach. Nobody was taking him in the first round, and some teams rated him a third-round value.