2017 MLS SuperDraft: Minnesota resists trading, takes UCLA's Danladi No. 1
Despite rumors of trade talk, MLS expansion club Minnesota United held onto the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft and took star UCLA forward Abu Danladi to kick off the festivities at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Friday.
Fellow expansion team Atlanta United followed at No. 2 and took Syracuse and U.S. Under-20 national team center back Miles Robinson.
Both were part of this year's Generation Adidas class, which is made up of star underclassmen who do not immediately count against a team's salary budget. It also included forwards Jonathan Lewis (Akron) and Adonijah Reid (Canada youth national team) and midfielders Jackson Yueill (UCLA) and Shamit Shome (FC Edmonton).
Former Duke product Jeremy Ebobisse is another top prospect and was touted as a potential No. 1 selection, and he went fourth overall to the Portland Timbers, who traded up to acquire his services.
The league also introduced a new wrinkle, divulging the exact figures of how much allocation money was involved in announced trades. New York City FC, for example, spent $250,000 in general allocation money to trade up to No. 3 and select Lewis with the pick that initially belonged to the Chicago Fire. Portland, meanwhile, sent $100,000 in general allocation money to Houston to take Ebobisse.
Here are the picks for the first two rounds of the MLS SuperDraft (the final two rounds take place via conference call on Jan. 17):
Oft-injured but supremely talented, the dynamic Danladi joins a potentially potent attacking corps in Minnesota, along with incumbents Miguel Ibarra and Christian Ramirez. He had 18 goals in three seasons at UCLA.
Widely regarded as the best defender available in the draft, the U.S. U-20 center back joins the expansion project in Atlanta.
NYCFC executed a trade with Chicago for the second straight draft, sending $250,000 in general allocation money to the Fire for the chance to select Lewis, the MVP of the college combine.
The Timbers swapped first-rounders, sent an international roster spot and $100,000 in general allocation money for the chance to pick Ebobisse,a former Duke product who spent time with the USL's Charleston Battery after signing with MLS. Another U.S. U-20 product, Ebobisse had been touted as a first overall possibility.
A second center back goes off the board, as Columbus looks to rebuild its back line after taking a local product (via Ghana). Columbus is expected to be without Gaston Sauro in 2017 and lost Michael Parkhurst to Atlanta in the off-season.
The central midfielder becomes the second Bruin off the board in L.A. and goes up the coast to the Earthquakes, who are in need of a dynamic punch in the midfield after scoring the fewest goals in MLS (32) last season.
The Whitecaps leaked goals last season, so they turn to the Huskies' right back, who enjoyed a strong combine.
The German midfielder will occupy an international roster spot. He starred in 2016 at Providence with 15 goals and six assists.
The versatile winger offers another attacking piece to Gregg Berhalter's squad after a 13-goal, three-assist campaign as a senior with the Lobos. Had 28 goals and 14 assists in his four years in school.
The first player not present at the draft is off the board! The London native will require an international spot and is already 24, but he had 26 assists in the last three seasons with the Pride.
Johnson's stock soared at the combine after his strong showing in the last few days, and he parlayed it into a high pick. Johnson transferred from Maryland after two seasons and had a pair of goals and five assists as a senior with the Cardinals. Spent time with West Ham while living in London from 2009-2012.
D.C. goes into its backyard to take Odoi-Atsem, an athletic, attack-minded right back. The club also has Sean Franklin and experimental fullback Nick DeLeon at the position, but Odoi-Atsem comes in highly regarded.
A third right back goes off the board, with Dunk staying in the Rocky Mountain region and heading to Rio Tinto Stadium, where Tony Beltran is the incumbent starter.
The run on right backs continues! Storm, a tremendous athlete, showed well at the combine but faces competition with Sporting KC to make the first team off the bat, especially if Graham Zusi becomes a regular right back for club and country.
Colorado keeps it local with the pick it received in exchange for the MLS rights to another defensive midfielder, Jermaine Jones.
NYCFC sent $75,000 in general allocation money to Seattle for a pick it once owned in order to select Awuah, who played left back and midfield at UConn. NYCFC has spent $325,000 in GAM just to be able to draft a pair of players.
A Bermuda international, the speedy winger offers a successor to Dane Richards and Lloyd Sam and expressed quite the chip on his shoulder in his post-pick remarks. He's eager to prove he should've been drafted higher.
The box-to-box midfielder falls to Oscar Pareja's squad, giving the Supporters' Shield winner another talented, versatile option on an already deep squad.
DePuy has played in the front and the back in college, ending his college career with the Gauchos as a target forward. At 6-foot-4, he provides ample size either as a forward or as a center back.
The Revolution keep it in New England with Wright, who lit it up with the Catamounts. In four seasons, he scored 39 goals and added 25 assists, with 14 and 12, respectively, as a senior.
Aubrey dropped after his combine performance, but he was highly touted during his four years as a center back with the Fighting Irish. As a senior, he scored nine goals, showing a nose for goal when he got into the attacking third.
The back-to-back national champion goes to the MLS Cup champion to close the first round, providing depth at center back for the Sounders, where he'll re-team with Jordan Morris.