With the 2011 MLS SuperDraft almost here, there are still questions around who the Vancouver Whitecaps will take with the No. 1 pick or if they'll even be the one making it. Only a few days ago, Akron forward Darlington Nagbe was widely believed to be the obvious first player taken. After skipping the combine, that now seems to be in question as more and more mock drafts have his Akron teammate Perry Kitchen going first. The Whitecaps have also let it be known that they are considering trading the pick.
Either way, it would qualify as a significant surprise if they weren't the two players off the board. Almost everyone also seems to be in agreement that Indiana forward Will Bruin and Akron defender Kofi Sarkodie will be the next two players picked. After that, though, it gets significantly more interesting. The generally accepted theory for this is that there are somewhat significant questions about the rest of the players.
"Everybody’s pretty clear about the guys at the very top, the top five or so, and after that it gets pretty average, pretty quickly," Real Salt Lake general manager Garth Lagerway said. "I think the one up side may be that this draft will stay ‘average’ for longer than some other drafts have."
Center backs Jalil Anibaba and AJ Soares, for instance, are likely to be able to contribute almost right away, but don't offer the upside of some of the other players that could go this early. Omar Salgado, a 17-year-old, left-footed forward, seems like a future star-in-the-making, but almost no one thinks he'll be able to contribute much for a few more years.
There are also a host of intriguing internationals, several of whom made quite an impression at the MLS Combine. Attacking players Victor Estupiñan, Joao Plata and Paolo Cardozo have all been projected as relatively early picks and even John Rooney has found his way into a few first rounds of mock drafts.
Those internationals, though, pose a different kind of risk. Sounders coach Sigi Schmid pointed out that there's a reason each one of those players have found their way into the draft, and it's not because they are proven commodities.
"It’s a little easier for us with the college players because we have seen them play in college as well as here and so sometimes you throw out one or the other," he said. "So with the internationals we are only really seeing them here. But there are a couple that have stood out, done very well and looked like they could have a role in the future of MLS."
Further complicating matters is the last-minute decisions by several teams to make Homegrown Player offers. The Dynamo signed Josue Soto after the SMU product had already participated in the combine and Jonathan Top just signed with FC Dallas. New York Red Bulls academy product Matt Kassel is also reportedly still trying to work out a deal.