Throwback Thursday: MLS No. 1 draft picks and how they panned out
The mammoth that is the NFL Draft is everywhere, with the likes of Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Jadeveon Clowney claiming the spotlight on TV networks, websites and newspaper headlines across the country. Of course, the draft, in any sport, is pretty much a crapshoot. Hours and financial resources dedicated to scouting and working out players only go so far, and it often takes multiple years to determine whether picks and trades where worth teams' efforts.
But with all of the buzz emanating from Radio City Music Hall this week, it got us to thinking: How have MLS' 19 top overall picks fared? Who panned out? Who, famously, did not? Here's a rundown of the league's 19 top-pick honorees. Like in any sport, the draft being an inexact science certainly extends to MLS:
1996 - Matt McKeon, Kansas City Wiz: You want inexact science? Eddie Pope went second overall in the league's inaugural college draft. Greg Vanney and Steve Ralston went in the second round. Jesse Marsch, Eddie Lewis and Ante Razov went in the third. To his credit, McKeon actually enjoyed a decent seven-year career, notching 11 assists in helping KC to the 2000 MLS Cup. He represented the USA in the 1996 Olympics and 1999 Confederations Cup.
1997 - Tahj Jakins, Colorado Rapids: Jakins lasted five seasons out of UCLA, playing 73 games before bouncing around the lower rungs of the U.S. Soccer ladder.
1998 - Leo Cullen, Miami Fusion: Cullen played in 166 games over seven seasons and has enjoyed a brief post-playing stint as a coach before joining the agency world. He currently works with James Grant Sports. Among the players taken after Cullen in the first round: Chris Klein, Clint Mathis, Mike Petke, Jeff Cunningham and Wade Barrett.
1999 - Jason Moore, D.C. United: Moore played for four teams in five seasons out of the University of Virginia, scoring one goal and amassing 11 assists. The pick did little to harm D.C.'s 1999 MLS Cup run, but one must wonder what may have been had D.C. taken the player that went second overall in that draft -- a defender by the name of Jay Heaps -- instead.
2000 - Steve Shak, New York/New Jersey MetroStars: Whoo boy. Of the five UCLA products that went in the 2000 SuperDraft, the first of its rebranded kind, Shak enjoyed the least success, and it's not even close. He played 38 total games over four seasons (well, three seasons and one minute in a fourth) between New York and Colorado. Contrast that with the career of fellow Bruins Carlos Bocanegra, Nick Rimando, Sasha Victorine and Peter Vagenas, and you could understand why the New York fan base has developed its share of skepticism. As for Shak, he's currently a volunteer assistant coach with NC State.
2001 - Chris Carrieri, San Jose Earthquakes: Carrieri was not long for San Jose. He was dealt to the Colorado Rapids after five games and had three productive seasons, tallying 19 goals and 17 assists before being waived. The former UNC star bounced around the lower tiers of U.S. Soccer before his career halted with the Richmond Kickers in 2010.
2002 - Chris Gbandi, Dallas Burn: Gbandi is currently an assistant coach at Dartmouth University. He enjoyed a five-season career with Dallas, playing 111 games, before trying his hand overseas with Norwegian club Haugesund.
2003 - Alecko Eskandarian, D.C. United: Eskandarian is currently an assistant coach for the New York Cosmos after a quality MLS career that was cut short by concussions. A fan favorite when he played, Eskandarian scored 30 goals and had 12 assists in 125 career MLS games. And there was that stint on Keeping Up With The Kardashians.
2004 - Freddy Adu, D.C. United: Where to begin? Adu's whirlwind career has seen him play for nine teams in six countries, most recently with Brazilian side Bahia last winter. Most figured, back in 2004, that 2014 would be when the 24-year-old Adu would be at the height of his playing days and leading the U.S. at the World Cup while continuing to accrue global acclaim. Instead, he's presently without a club.
2005 - Nikolas Besagno, Real Salt Lake: Whoops. In a draft that included the likes of Brad Guzan, Michael Parkhurst and Chris Rolfe, RSL gambled on the then-16-year-old Besgano, who didn't pan out quite like the expansion club would've hoped. He is currently coaching with PDL's Washington Crossfire.
2006 - Marvell Wynne, New York/New Jersey MetroStars: Wynne won an MLS Cup with Colorado in 2010 and has remained with the club, finding a steady home after not catching on in New York or Toronto. Consistently one of the fastest players in MLS, Wynne's ceiling has been the infrequent national team call-up.
2007 - Maurice Edu, Toronto FC: Edu won Rookie of the Year honors with TFC and was quickly on his way to Europe, where he became a staple in Glasgow Rangers' midfield. His move from the financially troubled team to Stoke City temporarily stunted his career, but he is back on track while on loan at Philadelphia for the season, and could very well find himself on a second straight World Cup roster.
2008 - Chance Myers, Kansas City Wizards: It took Myers time, but he has blossomed into one of the top fullbacks in MLS. A fixture at right back on Sporting Kansas City's MLS Cup-winning side, Myers has made his way to the fringe of the U.S. national team picture, earning a call-up to the USA's January training camp.
2009 - Steve Zakuani, Seattle Sounders: Zakuani was on the fast-track to stardom, and maybe even a move overseas, until a horrid challenge from Colorado's Brian Mullan completely derailed his career. The winger, now with Seattle's chief rival, Portland, has shown flashes of his old self since his return to the field. Prior to his injury, he was one of the league's most prolific, rising talents.
2010 - Danny Mwanga, Philadelphia Union: A dynamic prospect out of Oregon State, Mwanga's output has decreased every year he has been in the league, and he is currently on his third team, the Colorado Rapids. After a seven-goal, four-assist output in his rookie year, it looked like Philadelphia had its forward of the future, but he was dealt to Portland in his third season. Has 15 goals and 10 assists in 92 career games.
2011 - Omar Salgado, Vancouver Whitecaps: Foot injuries have stunted the beginning of what appeared to be a promising career, but at just 20, Salgado has plenty of time to reach his potential. Was just recalled from a loan spell with the Charleston Battery by the Whitecaps and has a chance to earn significant playing time in MLS. Has one goal and two assists in 21 career matches.
2012 - Andrew Wenger, Montreal Impact: The Duke product was traded by Montreal to Philadelphia for Jack McInerney straight-up last month, and is still trying to break through as an impact -- excuse the pun -- player. He has seven goals and three assists in his MLS career.
2013 - Andrew Farrell, New England Revolution: Starting regularly for the Revs, who traded up to get him, Farrell is being tabbed as a potential U.S. national team candidate given the strong start to his career. SI's Brian Straus recently profiled the Louisville product.2014 - Andre Blake, Philadelphia Union: In the Jamaican national team picture, Blake is currently backing up Zac MacMath after the Union moved up in the draft to nab him.