The MLS SuperDraft is beautiful for the “what could be.” Nothing’s guaranteed – and increasingly so in the SuperDraft – but you also aren’t taking advantage of the possibility if you aren’t thinking about the promise. When you see a player, picture the best version of him; push yourself as a team to maximize his ability.
So using an optimistic lens, let’s look at who some of the top picks in this year’s SuperDraft could resemble…
Tajon Buchanan – Justin Meram
The common word used to describe Buchanan? Silky. He glides with the ball and loves to run at players. Whenever Buchanan faces up in space, the stadium gets the same buzz as when an in-form Meram gets going. Teams think that if Buchanon learns to use his elite pace, he might have more upside than Meram.
Anderson Asiedu – Russell Canouse
The biggest winner of Day 1 of the 2019 adidas MLS Player Combine, Asiedu offers a unique trait among young defensive midfielders: he’s a bulldog. He’s a specialist at winning the ball back. His pace helps him to cover ground in midfield, and his quickness and low center of gravity allow him to keep pace with the elite attackers. The questions will be about his ability on the ball, but if he can wreak as much havoc on opposing attacks as Russell Canouse was for D.C. United in 2018, then Asiedu has a future in the league.
Siad Haji – Lee Nguyen
The Haji-to-Nguyen comparison blends playing style and tactical flexibility. Haji looks like Nguyen when he gets on the ball: smooth, naturally creative, and a good-but-not-amazing burst of acceleration. And like Nguyen, Haji can play as an attacking midfielder or winger. (I wouldn’t be shocked to see someone make Haji a facilitator rather than a chance creator, either.)
Akeem Ward – Tony Beltran
An all-around solid outside back who can play on both the right and the left… you could pretty much call that “a Beltran.” Ward can play with both feet and hold his own going forward, but his 1-v-1 defending and overall defensive reliability will probably be his calling card.
Brad Dunwell – Scott Caldwell
Soft feet, tactically savvy, and a leader at heart, Dunwell will have coaches building mental comparison to the New England homegrown. Dunwell, like Caldwell, doesn’t have the natural abilities to be an All-Star, perhaps. But he has the base skills and dedication to be a consistent contributor.
Dayne St. Clair – Zack Steffen
This one is too easy, but also too obvious to exclude. Tall, athletic, an excellent shot stopper, confident with his feet (and prone to the occasional mistake), and the Terrapin tag, it’s nearly impossible not to think of Steffen when you watch St. Clair.
Frankie Amaya – Darlington Nagbe
Just give him the ball. You’re in trouble? Give it to Amaya. He’s got that something. Maybe don’t expect him to score goals (although maybe he can?). But you can rely on him to keep the ball for you. Sound like someone familiar?
Griffin Dorsey – Corey Baird
Dorsey’s tough to compare to anyone right now because he might end up switching positions. He played winger at college and with the US U-20s at the Concacaf Championship, but some project him as an outside back in MLS. He has superb athleticism, but perhaps lacks the technical quality to play in tight spaces. If Dorsey plays as a winger, I’ve heard people compare him to the 2018 MLS Rookie of the Year. Neither player has the tight control of a Jefferson Savarino, but both have the pace, off-the-ball movement, and field awareness to make a difference.
John Nelson – Jorge Villafaña
To use Matt Doyle’s description from his Mock Draft, “[Nelson] can push up to help in possession, and really passes the ball quite well.” The best most possession-focused left back in MLS: Villafaña. Nelson might be a bit fragile defensively, but he certainly has a nice level of calmness on the ball. He offers a little more flexibility than Villafaña, as the UNC product played some left center back in college, as well. (my fellow ExtraTime Radio host David Gass wanted me to use former Sounder left back Leo Gonzalez, in case older MLS fans want another *classic* reference point).
Callum Montgomery – Kim Kee-Hee
Any MLS team that drafts Montgomery would be ecstatic to see Montgomery get to Kim’s level, but this is an optimistic exercise, remember. Both can play on the left side of a defensive pairing without any issues, something that’s becoming increasing valuable around the league. Montgomery, like Kim, fits into the shrinking category of solid-at-everything but not-quite-amazing-at-anything center back. There isn’t a part of Montgomery’s game that stands out, but he always seems to do the job.