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MLS Draft 2014: Team needs

Do MLS teams draft for need the way they do in the NFL? No, but they'll likely use need as a guide.

Cal's Steve Birnbaum could be the No. 1 pick in the MLS SuperDraft.
Cal's Steve Birnbaum could be the No. 1 pick in the MLS SuperDraft.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

In the run-up to the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, most of the mock drafts are built around that teams will be looking to fill holes. The reality is that most teams don't really draft that way. There are only going to be a handful of players that get starters minutes during their rookie seasons. Teams know this and the vast majority of them are likely to be picking whoever they believe is the vaunted "best player available."

That doesn't mean need is totally out the window. At the very top of the draft, teams sometimes will pick to fill an immediate need and later in the draft teams often pick to fill holes in their depth. So, we offer this simple guide.

Eastern Conference (reverse order of finish)

D.C. United (Picks: 1)

Needs: Coming off one of the worst seasons in MLS history, there's no shortage of areas where they need help. They scored the fewest goals and allowed the second most. In fact, there's almost so much need that you figure they'll take whatever player they feel has the biggest upside. As tempting as it is to say that they need as many goal-scorers as they can find, they've already acquired Eddie Johnson and are supposedly still hoping to sign Fabian Espindola. On defense, they've already added Jeff Parke and Bobby Boswell. I think they're going to pick either Steve Birnbaum or Christian Dean with the first pick, but wouldn't be surprised to see them move back into the later parts of the first day of the draft in order to pick up a midfielder.

Toronto FC (Picks: 15, 24)

Needs: Another team coming off a woeful season. The difference is that they've been going crazy signing players, most notably Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe. Defense is the one area that has mostly gone unaddressed during the offseason overhaul and this is a draft that promises to be deep at center back.

Columbus Crew (Picks: 14)

Needs: Gregg Berhalter is already knee-deep in his rebuilding of the Crew, sending away rock defender Chad Marshall, goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum and a host of others. Even after the acquisition of Michael Parkhurst, though, the defense still looks very thin in the middle. It's hard to see them passing up on a pro-ready center back with their pick if there's one available.

Philadelphia Union (Picks: 2, 6, 25, 27)

Needs: Assuming the Union can finish off the deal for Maurice Edu, the one part of the field where they look reasonably settled is midfield. The trade of center back Jeff Parke has opened a hole in the central defense, which probably gets filled with the second overall pick. I'd expect them to focus on forwards and offensive-minded players with the rest of their picks, though.

Chicago Fire (Picks: 13)

Needs: The one position the Fire are definitely looking set is at center back, where they now have four players that should all be able to compete for time. Fullback is probably their biggest need, but I'd be shocked to see them draft one with the No. 13 pick unless Eric Miller falls to them. They would probably love to pick a central midfielder there.

Montreal Impact (Picks: 10, 29, 37)

Needs: Can a team need more Italians? Because the one thing the Impact have shown a real bias toward is adding players of Italian ancestry. Assuming they don't use that as a way of evaluating draft-eligible players, though, they have to be looking for center backs.

Houston Dynamo (Picks: 16, 32)

Needs: Truth be told, there aren't massively glaring holes on this team at least in the starting group. But teams aren't looking for starters this late in the draft, and the Dynamo could really use a center back they could mold.

New England Revolution (Picks: 4, 12, 19, 31)

Needs: I have a bit of a crush on this team, quite honestly. But the departure of Juan Agudelo and the disappearance of Jerry Bengtson has left them with a rather glaring lack of reliable forwards. If things fall right, they might be able to grab a reliable one with their first pick but a scatter-shot approach with forwards would not be the worst plan.

Sporting Kansas City (Picks: 38)

Needs: For as good as the defense was during their MLS Cup-winning campaign, they really don't have much depth at full back where Chance Myers and Seth Sinovic got the vast majority of the minutes. The last pick of the second round is a great place to take a flyer on a full back.

New York Red Bulls (Picks: 22, 34)

Needs: For a team that won the Supporters' Shield, they actually have a fair amount of needs. This is a team, after all, who was relying upon Brandon Barklage, Kosuke Kimura and Roy Miller to do their heavy lifting at full back. Barklage was so good that he was allowed to go in the Re-Entry Draft, leaving Kimura and Miller as the de facto starters. They've also just cut ties with Marcus Holgerson, who was their most used defender. At the same time, their outside mids could probably use an upgrade. Still, let's say defense is their biggest need.

Western Conference

Chivas USA (Picks: 20)

Needs: Let's be honest, no team drafts worse than Chivas USA. It doesn't really matter what their needs are because they don't really seem to care at all about the draft. So, let's just say "backup goalkeeper" and call it a day.

FC Dallas (Picks: 5)

Needs: The good news is that Dallas has the coach they want in Oscar Pareja. The bad news? He's got a lot of work ahead of him. Outside of center back, they probably need everything so they will absolutely pick the "best player available."

Vancouver Whitecaps (Picks: 3, 7, 30)

Needs: I keep reading that they need a goalkeeper. They don't. That may not stop them from taking Andre Blake with their first pick, but that's only because he might be the best goalkeeper to come into the draft since Brad Guzan. They do, however, need some attacking midfield types.

San Jose Earthquakes (Picks: 9, 28)

Needs: A year ago, they had one of the better fullback situations in Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow. But Morrow has been traded to Toronto and Beitashour could be on the way out too. They'll be crossing their fingers that Miller falls to them and even if he doesn't, they could be desperate enough to pick Cal's Ryan Neil. In other words, they are in rather desperate need of a full back.

Colorado Rapids (Picks: 11, 33, 35)

Needs: The Rapids bucked their recent draft history last year in picking a pair of Rookie of the Year candidates in 2013. Once you get past their starters, though, they are a bit thin. They are probably thinest at wide midfield.

Seattle Sounders (Picks: 8, 21)

Needs: The day before the draft, the Sounders moved up from No. 13 to No. 8. That suggests they have their eye on a specific player. They are probably most in need of attacking wide players and pure playmakers. Expect them to pick up a few midfielders.

LA Galaxy (Picks: 23)

Needs: Considering where Bruce Arena is usually drafting, he's gotten a remarkable number of useful players from the draft. Last year, it was Kofi Opare. After loaning out Jose Villarreal to Cruz Azul, and his future being unclear, they could probably use some young attacking talent.

Real Salt Lake (Picks: 18)

Needs: Honestly, I'm not sure RSL "needs" anything, but another fullback wouldn't hurt. Chris Wingert and Tony Beltran aren't going to be around forever, after all.

Portland Timbers (17, 26, 36)

Needs: So far this offseason, the Timbers have picked up three defenders, a midfielder, a forward and a backup goalkeeper. Only one of them was as old as 30. What do they need? They need to save some for the rest of us! But seriously, they could probably use a few more center backs if only to ensure that they aren't still relying upon Pa Modou Kah and Futy Danso any longer than they have to.