Predicting the MLS SuperDraft is the rough equivalent of reading tea leaves. The event, slated to take place January 17-21, is notorious for unforeseen trades and seemingly random picks. Partly this is because anything MLS must be as complicated as possible but also because NCAA soccer players are difficult to evaluate outside of the elite prospects. With more and more of those players electing to sign Homegrown deals with pro teams (or going to Europe), the draft pool has gradually become less and less deep, making the SuperDraft much less important than it was ten or 5 years ago.
Despite this, the Caps have had some success, nabbing former St. John’s (N.Y.) University defender Tim Parker in 2015, a move which netted them a perennial started and, as of last week, a future U.S. Men’s National Team player. Carl Robinson and company duplicated that success last year, selecting University of Connecticut fullback Jake Nerwinski (to the grumblings of some fans). The choice was an inspired one, as Nerwinski hopped MLS veteran Sheanon Williams in the depth chart to become to the team’s first choice right back and, arguably, a MLS Rookie of the Year snub.
With the SuperDraft Combine kicking off in sunny Orlando, here are a few names who could be intriguing for the Caps. While the shallow draft pool means that it makes less sense for Robinson to try and fill the team’s biggest needs with the 17th overall pick, there are some intriguing names who could make instant impacts if selected.
Drew Skundrich, Midfielder, Stanford University
A gritty, strong box-to-box midfielder sounds right up Robinson’s alley and that’s what Skundrich could provide, giving Vancouver a long-term option to replace Tony Tchani or Andrew Jacobson. A 2017 All-Pac 12 and All-College Cup Skundrich anchored the Cardinal midfield as they cruised to the NCAA championship. Skundrich recorded 3 goals and 2 assists, while picking only one booking while starting every match he played in. His energy and passing ability should appeal to Robinson and help earn him minutes right away and Skundrich seems to be a natural fit for a system reliant on defensive midfielders.
Mohammed Thiaw, Winger, Louisville University
A raw yet talented forward, Thiaw has a common problem that college players often run into: they lack a clear MLS position. Yet his physicality and pace didn’t stop him from tallying 12 goals last season for Louisville, good for second best in the ACC and helping him garner All-ACC honors. He showed he could play pretty much anywhere in the Cardinals’ attacking band and that sort of flexibility could be an asset in Vancouver. Thiaw is the kind of player that made more sense before the demise of the Thundercaps (RIP) but a loan to Fresno FC would not be out of the question to help the 6-2 forward gain some more experience.
Wyatt Omsberg, Defender, Dartmouth University
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: a tall, physically imposing center back from the Northeast hailing from a non-traditional college team who falls to Vancouver in the middle of the first round. While it’s possible a strong combine could boost the 6’4 defender out of Vancouver’s reach, Omsberg bears a resemblance to Tim Parker and could help contribute some center back depth immediately to Vancouver. Omsberg maintained a .68 goals against average last season for Dartmouth and was a second-team NSCAA All-American and coaches and teammates hail him as a natural leader. But given that Robbo didn’t want to give guys like Cole Seiler minutes at center back, it is distinctly possible that he isn’t eager to target more central defense depth in the SuperDraft.
Gordon Wild, forward, University of Maryland (Generation Adidas prospect)
Wild unfortunately seems to have misplayed his hand, opting to stick around for the 2017 season rather than declare for last year’s draft following a scalding hot campaign that resulted in him being a finalist for the Mac Hermann trophy, given annually to the finest college player. 2017 was not as kind to the German, as he scored a mere five goals. This has led to questions about Wild’s ability to cut the mustard in MLS, with good reason. But Wild did scored 33 goals his first two years of college and is a smart forward with potential. While he would count for an international roster spot, his Generation Adidas status would save Vacnouver a nominal amount of money. He could spend some time gaining seasoning from guys like Kei Kamara to help reclaim his form as well.
Rafael Andrade Santos, midfielder, VCU
I was admittedly unfamiliar with Santos until reading the always insightful Matthew Doyle’s mock draft, where he pegged the VCU product may be selected by the Caps. What jumped out about Santos is Doyle’s assertion that he could make for an interesting wingback prospect, an oft-suggested idea by writers on this site. He was an undeniably prolific Number 10 in college, earning Atlantic 10 Player of the Year honors and tallying five assists and 12 goals for the Rams. But like many creative players in college, the best position in the pros is not clear. Santos would also count as an international player, meaning a trip to Fresno may be in his future if Vancouver opt to grab him. He is highly ranked by topdrawersoccer.com (the gold standard for college analysis), meaning he could be an intriguing selection for the Caps.
Who should Vancouver be targeting in the SuperDraft? Should we even be spending time worrying about it? Let us know in the comments below.