Every year a group university players seemingly spawn out of nowhere to be picked in the MLS super draft. Is it just because i’m in Canada that I have never heard of any of these guys? People seem to know about the players going into the season but where are they finding this information? Reading the mock drafts it often seems like the people making those don’t know much about the players because their descriptions often do not go very far beyond the player’s height. But the Vancouver Whitecaps have picked four players and I have done some preliminary research on them. So here are my ill informed, but still slightly better informed than most internet sources, opinions on them.
I had actually heard of David Egbo before today. I had heard of him in the sense that he was near the top of a lot of mock drafts with helpful information like “he’s pretty good” but I had heard of him nonetheless. It seems though that Egbo is, indeed, pretty good.
I was given his stats by an analyst who rated Egbo as the second best player in the draft ... in 3313 career minutes at Akron, he had an xG of 20 and an xA of 3.2. He outperformed his expected numbers scoring 21G and 14A. Decent. #VWFC— (@GlassCityFC) January 21, 2021
This works out to about 0.63 xG+xA per 90 minutes. That is very good. Players who achieved that in MLS last season included Jordan Morris, Gyasi Zardes, and Sergio Santos. So Egbo is very good at the college level, which is step one of being a college player who goes on to have a successful MLS career.
In terms of style of play, Egbo seems to be a pretty traditional target man who scores most of his goals inside the penalty area by using his physical strength and movement to make chances for himself. With Lucas Cavallini and Theo Bair the Whitecaps now have quite a log jam of this kind of guy. I would say Egbo starts as pretty firmly the #3 on that totem pole, since Bair is a year younger and already entering year three of his pro career. But with team Canada likely to play a lot of matches this year, Egbo might not be completely frozen out.
Egbo is 22, so he probably isn’t to far off the finished product. If he can be a solid backup who provides a rough approximation of what Cavallini brings when he is unavailable then I think that’s a win.
Brown is a bit of a weird draft pick because he already has a fairly large number of professional minutes under his belt and four caps for the senior Jamaican national team. A small centre back who sometimes plays as a right back, Brown began his career in 2016/17 for Harbour View F.C. He made 12 appearances and logged 1080 minutes. The next season he made 20 appearances for 1645 minutes. For a young player, especially one who isn’t that big, to play so regularly in a men’s professional league is an encouraging sign. After his two seasons in Jamaica, Brown moved to the university of South Florida where he was named to the AAC all rookie team.
But how good is the Jamaican premier league? Well, that’s a bit of a complicated question. On the one hand, Jamaican league teams are clearly not that good. Teams from Trinidad and Tobago are more successful in general in the Caribbean Club Cup and teams that go on from that to the CONCACAF competitions tend to not do so well. On the other hand though, lots of players who have gone on to successful careers got their start in the Jamaican domestic leagues, especially in MLS. Corey Burke, Alvas Powell, Kemar Lawrence, and Donavon Ricketts, all spent time in their early career playing the Jamaican Premier league. So if you are able to be a regular player as a youngster then that seems to bode well for your future prospects, even if the level is not the highest.
In terms of style of play, Brown is the sort of player I was hoping the Whitecaps would target. He is quite small for a centre back so people seem to think his professional future is at right back. The Whitecaps have two very attacking left backs which sometimes leaves them open to counter attacks. To compensate for this it could make sense to have a right back who tucks in like a 3rd centre back when the team is in possession. To fill that role you would want someone who is comfortable in both positions, is defensively sound, and can pick a good pass to help the team play out of the back. Brown seems to be all those things. MLS is a big step up from the Jamaican league and the college game but people have successfully made the jump before. I will be watching Brown with great interest.
Iloski is a right footed left back/left winger who graduated from the Real Salt Lake Academy. His stats and video don’t really jump off the page. He seems pretty comfortable in tight spaces but of course those spaces are a lot tighter in MLS. According to Marc Dos Santos he is still eligible to go back and play his university season (MLS has made some allowances for this due to Covid-19) so we will see how he does.
Harrison is a graduate of the Whitecaps academy who played games for WFC2 back in 2016, so clearly they were pretty high on him. Harrison chose to go to College but suffered a serious injury that kept him out of action for almost two years. Between this injury and the Covid-19 pandemic Harrison has only played 28 games in the last four years. But since picks this low are a pretty long shot anyway you might as well gamble that he can get it all together again. Harrison will be eligible to return for his university season and you could probably find a CPL team that would be happy to take him on loan after that. All in all he seems like a pretty good bet for a late second round pick.