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Scouting the MLS Draft: Who might be best available left for Sounders

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Seattle picks at 16, 22, and 44. There should still be plenty of value at each pick with this year’s draft.

In most North American sports, the draft is the main way, if not the sole way, of bringing in young talent to a team. With homegrown players, global signings, and a few other signing mechanisms, the MLS SuperDraft seems to lose value each year. This is not to say you can’t find good value; Cristian Roldan is the prime example of draft value after being picked No. 16 in 2015. The first two rounds of the MLS SuperDraft are on Friday, January 13th in LA, starting at noon. Seattle owns three picks in the first two rounds, picking at 16, 22, and 44.

With the rumored HGP signings of Henry Wingo and Seyi Adekoya and the recent acquisition of Will Bruin, Seattle’s need for another striker is less imperative. Outside of striker and in goal, Seattle needs bodies at every position. Wingo fills a spot in the midfield and can slide to the wing. But with Erik Friberg, Nathan Sturgis, and Michael Farfan gone, bodies are needed across to attacking midfield band.

Seattle will have plenty of options available, and while Roldan is an obvious exception, it is unlikely another highly-regarded Generation Adidas prospect will fall that far this year (though the new Canadian GA program players may). At 16 and 22, the Sounders should have plenty of good draft-and-stash-on-S2 options as well as potential first team contributors still available.

Potential picks are listed in alphabetical order. Projected draft positions are via MLS, TopDrawer Mock and Big Board, MLS Combine Analysis, and American Soccer Analysis. Day One Full Games, Copa vs Tango and Chaos vs Control.

Pick 16:

Niko Hansen, Winger, New Mexico - Hansen is an attacker who can slide up top, though is usually deployed wide. In his first three years on campus, he never seemed to really fulfill his potential, averaging only .25 goals per appearance. Hansen’s senior year he sparked, scoring 13 goals in 21 matches. He’s projected to be gone around pick 12-14, but with a poor combine performance, he’ll likely start to slide a few picks, making Seattle a fitting destination. Overall, he plays similar to former Sounders U23 teammate Jordan Morris when he’s on the wing, but smaller as a striker.

Walker Hume, Center back, North Carolina - Walker is one of the two Hume twins who’ve played together every step of the way, but he is the more talented. Hume is a 6’5” CB who can dominate in the air. Coming in even taller than Damion Lowe, he’d be a natural replacement as fourth CB on the roster. There’s no problem with stashing Hume at S2 and getting him starts in the USL until the first team needs him. As a CB, Hume can score, getting at least four goals a season in his four years of college (split between University of North Carolina and Rollins College). He risks getting beat in 1v1 situations, but he’s only 23 and has time to work on that. Hume is a blend of Chad Marshall and Roman Torres, dominant in the air and a big body, but needs to improve at tracking runs and his positional awareness.

Daniel Johnson, Central Midfielder, Louisville - Projections have Johnson going everywhere from late round two to top ten, so there’s little agreed upon regarding the midfielder. Deployed usually as CM for Louisville, he played as an inverted winger on the left in the combine, drawing a PK and assisting twice in the only half he played during match one. His stock shot up during the combine to a likely round one pick on every team’s board. If teams put less stock in the combine than his time at Louisville, he’ll fall to Seattle. If they strongly value his combine performance, he may be gone around the 10 spot. Johnson plays similar to a young Friberg, with the ability to dictate the attack from the center as well cut in from the wing. His value is similar to likely HGP signing Wingo, with an ability to play anywhere in the attacking band of three, and would likely make the first team bench often enough.

Adonijah Reid, Forward, ANB Futbol, Canadian GA - Reid is one of the first GAs out of Canada — a new rule for 2017. Reid won the Golden Boot in Canada’s League1 last year playing for ANB Futbol in Ontario. He’s trialed with OGC Nice in France and has been integral for the Canadian youth system. Like Cyle Larin, he’s from Brampton. Unlike Larin, Reid has not played any college soccer and has very little tape for scouts to review, hurting his stock. He can slot in as a lone striker, but his best role is to play as the underneath striker or as an attacking mid. His ability on the wing hasn’t been tested but he would likely be quite effective cutting inside and making runs into the box from either wing. He’s a draft-and-stash candidate and would be off-cap as a GA player. At 17, he’s a great kid to start at S2 with Vic Mansaray and see how the young partnership develops.

Pick 22:

Guillermo Delgado, Forward, Delaware - Delgado likely goes higher than 22 after a strong combine performance. Though Seattle doesn’t need more strikers as much as other positions, Delgado at 22 is as close to a can’t-miss-pick who might actually fall this far. The Spanish striker is one of the fastest players in the draft and has the energy to run for days. In college, he scored in double digits and averaged at least a goal every other match for all four years. The drawback for Delgado is that he requires an international spot, but Seattle has some open and could afford one here. One extra benefit is that Delgado has played for the Sounders U23s and the club was able to scout him up close. Delgado has speed like Oalex Anderson but displays better control of the ball and makes smarter runs.

Justin Schmidt, Center back, Washington - Schmidt is a smart defender. He can win balls in the air but is not the most dominant, and likely won’t will every ball in MLS play. He isn’t the fastest player either, and can get beat by speedy forwards. Why Schmidt is tapped to go as high as 13 to RSL is that he plays within himself and knows how to position himself in order to not get beat. Similar to Chad Marshall, he does not have all the physical traits to keep up with every forward, but he knows exactly where to be to prevent problems. Defending 1v1s is also a strength of the former Husky. Most of the CBs in this draft have the physical talent and need to improve their vision and positioning, but Schmidt is the inverse. Like Tony Alfaro, he could slide into the lineup immediately and is comfortable passing out of the back.

Shamit Shome, Central Midfielder, FC Edmonton, Canadian GA - Both Canadian GAs make the list, with Shome an option for pick 22. Similar to Reid, he’s a mystery, but coming out of the FC Edmonton academy means that he has a bit more scouting material and experience. With Edmonton, he played as a box-to-box midfielder and was tasked primarily with retaining possession. There’s some question of his value due to his mediocre NASL numbers, but given that Shamit is only 19 and is an off-cap domestic player for all MLS sides, he holds value. Shome is seen by some as a 2nd rounder because of his poor defending, specifically tackling in midfield, but because of his above averaging passing he could go all the way up to the top 10. Likely, he falls somewhere in between, and Seattle can find some value with getting Shome to close the 1st round. He’d play similar to Roldan did in year one with the hope to grow like Roldan has. He’s a draft-and-stash with value thanks to his age and GA status.

Other 1st Round Potential Picks: Chris Nanco, Winger, Syracuse; Christian Thierjung, Forward, California; Brian Wright, Forward, Vermont.

Pick 44:

Lalas Abubakar, Center back, Dayton - The reigning PDL Defender of the Year should be a first round pick, right? Abubakar’s grades are scattered with some thinking he goes to Portland in the first round and some seeing him fall into the dreaded conference call of the 3rd and 4th rounds. Coming in as the final pick of round two makes sense for the Dayton CB. He has the physical talents, but is prone to turning it over out of the back. Questions about his ability to make the right tactical decisions are there as well. Factor in questions surrounding his ability to stay mistake free for 90 minutes, and his draft position is slipping. In the PDL, it was his size that carried him, but his 6’2” frame isn’t enough to be productive in MLS by itself.

Brandt Bronico, Winger/Midfielder, Charlotte - Bronico is not a first-round talent, especially in a draft with a glut of wingers at the top, but he is a good value find in the late second or third round. He can play either wing and is strong on the ball. He can be the shuttler and will not need to be creative when he’s on the field. Bronico can shoot from distance and has good speed for making runs on long balls. The problems that have him dropping is that he is not a great defender when tracking back and doesn’t have the work rate most of the wingers in the draft show. Joining on with a USL side will give Bronico a chance to prove doubters wrong and win an MLS deal from there. S2 would be great for the former Sounders U23 winger, and he should be able to adjust to the game speed and improve his defense there.

Michael DeGraffenreidt, Center back, Louisville - He was a solid college center back but is undersized for MLS, coming in at 5’10”. He is strong and good in the air, making up for the height, but likely projects more as an outside back going forward. DeGraffenreidt is similar to Kyle Bjornethun from Seattle University with regards to how he’ll likely fit in with an MLS side. If Seattle ends up calling Bjornethun before the draft for an HGP deal, DeGraffenreidt would be off the board for sure. If not, he provides an interesting option. DeGraffenreidt would likely be the inverse of Alfaro, playing RB and CB, but mainly CB.

Souheib Dhaflaoui, Forward/Winger, Youth International - Another player of mystery who would use up an international slot. At the end of the second round is where Dhaflaoui is going to start getting looks because of the international slot and questions about his skill set that were unanswered during his couple seasons in Europe. He’s a small forward who played up top more often than not, but would deploy as a winger, most likely, in Seattle. At 19, he’s already played in Denmark for a couple of years both as a youth and a senior team product. He hasn’t displayed much at the senior level in Denmark, but he’s got time to mature. A good fit for a direct S2 signing while the MLS side holds his rights.

Other 2nd Round Potential Picks: Austin Ledbetter, Centerback, SIUE; Evan Panken, Midfielder, Norte Dame.

Late Round Potential Picks with Seattle Connections: Chris Wehan, Winger, New Mexico; Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu, Midfielder, Harvard; Chris Wingate, Midfielder, New Hampshire.

All three late round picks were average to above average college players with 3rd or 4th round grades, and have played with the Sounders U23s. While the club’s drafting history of players with local ties is minimal, there is always a strong chance of drafting players that were scouted while with a local PDL side.