Good Friday morning Caps fans, hope you all are headed off to spend time with family for those of you who are celebrating Christmas. We won’t have a column on Monday to recover from the holiday but check back in a week’s time for all of your news.
True to form, the Caps went off in a somewhat unexpected direction, trading $225,000 in GAM for the number five pick to select J.C. Ngando, a French attacking midfielder from UNC Greensboro. More on this in a moment.
They followed this up with a Canadian, Syracuse striker Leconte Johnson, a guy who one has to imagine will be given a chance to make an impact as a depth striker, perhaps in the Tos Ricketts mold (though I’d bet he’ll start in MLS NEXT Pro). He was prolific both at Seattle University and Syracuse, nabbing 11 goals in his senior season, including eight game winners. He also seems like a guy who can drop deep and distribute, likely to be a plus for Vanni Sartini.
Western Michigan defender Daniel Nimick and Syracuse CB Buster Sjoberg round out the class. No offense to these guys but I’d be surprised if we heard much from them again, outside of MLS NEXT Pro.
Caleb will be out with a deeper dive on these guys later today so I won’t belabor the analysis. But the Ngando pick is an interesting one, albeit one with risks. There has been a lot of moaning that the Caps traded up for this guy rather than picking Malcolm Johnston, the brother of Alistair and a University of Maryland midfielder.
There is always risk in using an international spot on a draft pick. I don’t like it personally and while Vancouver has made it work with Javain Brown, you really want to use those on more known commodities. In 2023, there are relatively few draft picks who fall in this category.
Still, Ngando bagged 14 assists, a remarkable number that outpaced many of his other peer players in the draft class. I’m not sure he’s going to score many goals himself but his creativity and ability to play in the Ryan Gauld spot or as a central midfielder is intriguing. Ngando has experience in the Paris FC youth system as well, meaning that, like Brown, there is a non-NCAA body of work there to consider.
Ngando’s pick seems to be a reflection of the Caps trying to extract whatever value they could out of the draft. It’s possible they didn’t see the guys slated to be there at the 12th pick and thus saw trading up to be worth it as cover for Alessandro Schopf, who hardly looked convincing last year. And I think it’s easy to imagine a world where Ngando makes an impact. But given the current roster construction, it does seem like it might put the club in a bind later.
Shameless Self Promotion
Best of the Rest
Full marks on how each of the teams fared in the draft. For what it’s worth, I think the Caps’ grade is about right
The regular season schedule is out, with a manageable start to the season for the Caps
I’m gonna shock you when I say the Messi to MLS links were tenuous
RIP to the Canadian Men’s National Team in the FIFA rankings