MLS Draft 2011: Taking A Final Look At Who Came Out On Top

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Black And Red United: Hard Not to Like How United Improved

By Chest Rockwell

DC United: A

Before the draft, DC United was rumored to be after Perry Kitchen. However, this likely required trading up, so head coach Ben Olsen and GM Dave Kasper both talked about targeting an offensive player with the #3 pick. It seemed likely that a striker - either Will Bruin or Omar Salgado - was on the way.

Instead, the Vancouver Whitecaps opted to take Salgado, and Kitchen suddenly fell into DC's lap. Olsen said that, in his opinion, Kitchen was the best player in the draft and that United would have selected him over any other player. Kitchen is one of the few players in the draft that has the potential to play for the United States (and not just in the annual January friendly). Despite the fact that Kitchen's nineteenth birthday will happen during the preseason, there is a chance that he will compete from day one for playing time at center back. Sure, this wouldn't be the case if we had a strong back four, but it's still quite impressive. There is also the chance that Kitchen will see significant time in defensive midfield as a late-game sub when (if?) DC is winning. Getting a player with this much quality at a young age is great; getting him with a Generation Adidas deal is spectacular enough to actually restore at least some confidence in the club's ability to acquire talent that is actually, you know, talented.

Late in the 2nd round, United brought in Kitchen's Akron teammate, Chris Korb. Korb was "the other Akron player," but this Akron team was one of the all-time great college soccer teams. Korb featured at left back for the Zips in his senior season, which is probably where he'll be fighting for time in MLS. The current incumbent, Marc Burch, is arguably our weakest starting player and has been troubled by a series of foot surgeries over the past two seasons. Korb went under the radar a bit in the pre-draft hype, but there's a chance he could find himself battling for real minutes sooner rather than later. This pick isn't as sensational as getting Kitchen at #3, but it's a solid, well- thought-out selection.

Finally, United traded two 1st Round Supplemental Draft picks to the Galaxy to grab University of Denver keeper Joe Willis late in the 3rd round. Willis has a towering presence at 6'5", and will find himself in a dogfight for DC's third-string goalkeeper job. The club has already confirmed that Chase Harrison - who has over 40 professional games under his belt - and Alex Horvath will be invited to preseason camp to play for the same job, but obviously the club sees something in Willis if they were willing to trade up for him. It's worth noting that assistant coach Chad Ashton's previous job was the head coaching position at Denver, so it seems likely that he knows Willis well.

All in all, United improved the depth of a thin defensive group for 2011, and in Kitchen might have a future MLS Best 11-caliber player on their hands. Olsen seems to want to make his team harder to beat, and Caleb Porter called Kitchen and Korb his "most competitive players." That kind of winning attitude was sorely lacking from last year's Black-and-Red. At worst, DC's draft day performance appears to be in the top three around MLS, and you could make a strong case that we did the best of anyone.

Most Improved: New England Revolution

This is a really tough one, because you can make a great case for the Houston Dynamo, Chivas USA, and possibly the Philadelphia Union. However, I think Steve Nicol grabbed two likely 2011 starters in AJ Soares and Steven McCarthy, and he'll get the most out of both of them. McCarthy could be an especially clever pick as a second rounder, as he has the size, intelligence, and passing acumen to potentially replace what the Revs lost when they traded Jeff Larentowicz away.

Team That Did The Least: Columbus Crew

I considered the San Jose Earthquakes (Ampaipitakwong is not going to fit Yallop's style of play unless he toughens up significantly, and Steven Lenhart is pretty similar to Ryan Johnson) and the Colorado Rapids here, but ultimately I went with the Crew, who appear to be getting nearly everything wrong at the moment. Rich Balchan is a solid, versatile player, but at #12 he was a massive reach (especially when Bobby Warshaw, a better utility player, was still available). Balchan may have been available when the Crew picked in the 2nd round, and they could have easily used the #12 pick to take Justin Meram without trading Steven Lenhart away. Balchan may prove me wrong, but the Crew's 1st round performance looked like amateur hour from where I sit.

Meram is a decent player, and Cole Grossman addresses a central midfield need, but neither player strikes me as a guy that will become a solid MLS starter in the next couple of seasons. Both add depth, but that's about it. If the Crew signs Jeff Cunningham, Meram could find himself in a battle with Tommy Heinemann just to make the gameday bench as their fourth-choice striker, and Grossman doesn't offer much that Kevin Burns doesn't already bring to the table. 3rd rounder Bernardo Anor is an unknown, and the Venezuelan takes up an international roster spot to boot.

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By Martin Shatzer

Most improved: Houston Dynamo

The Dynamo were able to grab two of the top five rated players on the board and didn't even have to give up much to do it. Will Bruin looks to be the most MLS-ready of all the forwards available in the draft, and while questions still linger about whether Kofi Sarkodie is a right back or right winger, there's no questioning his talent. Dominic Kinnear did well and these two guys should put them in a position to compete for a playoff spot again after a disappointing 2010.

Least improved: LA Galaxy

With their 16th overall pick, the Galaxy attempted to draft Brian McBride, thinking he would fit in well with other recent acquisitions Juan Pablo Angel and Frankie Hejduk. Upon realizing that McBride wasn't eligible for selection since he graduated from college 18 years ago, Bruce Arena just wrote down the most Hispanic-sounding name he could think of. The Galaxy wound up with Paolo Cardozo.

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The Daily Wiz: Hard To Know What To Make Of Sporting Kansas City's Draft

By Andy Edwards

Sporting KC: C+

Honestly, who knows with this draft class. It could ultimately land anywhere between epic failure (F-) and a very solid (B+). I decided to go somewhere in the middle of those extremes. Choosing CJ Sapong with the tenth overall pick certainly caught a lot of people off guard; especially with guys like Will Bruin and Corey Hertzog - much higher rated players than Sapong - still available. The reason is simple: Sapong fits the KC system in a high pressure 4-3-3 formation, whereas the other two forwards are much better suited in a 4-4-2 with a feeder right behind them. So, on that front, it's not a bad pick. He is, though, 22 already and still considered "raw," so you have to wonder how much room there is for him to still develop. 

Second and third round picks JT Murray and Konrad Warzycha will both likely fill out the reserve roster for the first half of the season and be given ample opportunity for first team football when expected starters Stephane Auvray and Craig Rocastle miss up to a month for the Gold Cup. Overall, Sporting KC looked to fill out a lot of depth in the draft, and looks to have done so with moderate success. 

Most Improved: Houston Dynamo

Team That Did The Least: Columbus Crew

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Dynamo Theory: Houston Got Two Of Their Top Choices

By Zach Woosley

Houston Dynamo: A

The Dynamo went in to the draft with one draft pick and a couple targets. They left Baltimore having got both their top choices and they only had to give up a little allocation money to make it happen. Kofi Sarkodie is a fantastic talent and I was shocked he was available at the 7th pick, you had to take a talent like that if they are on the board. Will Bruin can help immediately and develop in to the eventual replacement for Brian Ching. Great draft for Houston.

Most Improved: DC United

Team That Did the Least: LA Galaxy

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Big D Soccer: Bobby Warshaw Should Contribute To FC Dallas' Young Core

By Daniel Robertson

I think FC Dallas did well for themselves. Picking at #17 it’s going to be tough to find a starting quality player so FC Dallas chose Bobby Warshaw, a guy that can play at both center back and defensive midfield, who was the captain of Stanford so you assume he’s good in the locker room and from all reports I’ve read he’s a talented passer of the ball which fits well in FCD’s system. With five homegrown players (one defender, three midfielders, two forwards) now on the roster, Dallas has plenty of young talent they can work on developing, Warshaw is a pick that can likely contribute this season with the Open Cup and Champions League added to a busy 2011 schedule. The other two guys we’ll just have to wait and see on.

Big winner: I really liked what New England did in the draft getting Soares and McCarthy, two physically big players who can step in and play right away while in Perry and Kinne they got two workmanlike forwards who seem to always flourish under Steve Nicol’s system.

Didn't do enough: I really didn’t like what Vancouver did with their picks. Salgado and Nanchoff are two high risk, high reward picks and while they could turn out to be stars in the league, as an expansion team I think they would’ve been better served to take a Perry Kitchen and Jalil Anibaba, two players who can make significant contributions from day one.

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MLS Draft 2011: Taking A Final Look At Who Came Out On Top

Three more rounds of another off-season draft are in the books. Fifty-one more players (believe it or not, three teams passed on their final pick) have been assigned to new teams. But there's still another week or so before training camps officially open.

In the meantime, we're going to have to bide our time by doing things like assessing the relative perceived successes and failures of the various teams. I've asked the various managers of the SB Nation team blogs to weigh in on how their teams fared and give me their impressions of which teams did particularly well and which ones didn't.

I've already given some of my post-draft impressions, but my general impressions were this: The Houston Dynamo and DC United were probably the most improved teams and I'm still trying to figure out what's going on with the Vancouver Whitecaps and Philadelphia Union. I'm not sure the Dynamo and DCU did enough to get themselves back in the playoffs, but they seem to be clearly headed in the right direction. Conversely, I'm not convinced the Whitecaps and Dynamo are destined for failure, but it's hard to feel good about two teams who made some head-scratching choices.

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