The 2016 MLS SuperDraft is set for 10 a.m. PT on Thursday, January 14. Watch the draft live on whitecapsfc.com and click here for more coverage.
Who’s the consensus number one pick in this year’s MLS SuperDraft?
How about the underrated star?
MLSsoccer.com analyst Matthew Doyle, who spent the last six days in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for the MLS Player Combine, answers these questions and more in an exclusive Q&A with whitecapsfc.com.
Is Josh Yaro the clear-cut number one pick? Or could you see someone else challenge?
A BIG EAST Digital Network feature on Josh Yaro
MD: I still think he is – you don't adjust years’ worth of scouting data based upon a few days at the combine, and the years of data say that Yaro's the best central defender to come out of college for a while.
I honestly don't think that size is an issue, and I also think he's better than folks realize with the ball. The biggest thing, though, is this: Yaro's strength is using his athleticism to cover up for the mistakes of others, and that's a huge need in MLS. This isn't Serie A or La Liga, where teams make few mistakes with the ball. Our league's more frenetic, so you need guys who can cancel out the bad moments back there. I think that's what makes him the No. 1.
That said, I hear Chicago like Jack Harrison a lot, and if Abu Danladi gets into the draft he'll be in the mix as well. They could also move the pick – I know they're fielding offers. And whoever gets it at that point could consider Yaro, Harrison, Danladi (if he's in), or Brandon Vincent.
What’s the positional strength of this year’s draft class. Is there one?
MD: There are a lot of center backs available for the first time in what seems like forever. I'm not sure how many walk into the starting XI besides Yaro, but these are guys who can be groomed over the course of a season like Tim Parker was, or over the course of two years like Richie Marquez was in Philly. Center back has been a weak spot in MLS for a couple of years now, so it's a good time for a good crop of CBs to come through.
Last year, Vancouver drafted Tim Parker at 13th overall. Realistically, could they find another impact player at 16th?
MD: I absolutely think there's talent to be found at 16, but whoever is picked there will have to be patient and dedicated to improving in the way that Parker was. The 'Caps have the luxury of drafting a guy and stashing him in the USL team for however many reps it takes to get them up to speed, which means they can be flexible and go for a high-upside prospect at literally any spot on the field.
Who are some of the most underrated players in this year’s draft class?
Highlights from Eric Verso's senior year
MD: I really like Eric Verso, a midfielder from Stanford. He played right mid in a 4-4-2 for the Cardinal this year and racked up 15 assists, and at the combine he's been used mostly as a free, underneath attacker, and he's put up one goal and two assists in two games. His movement is so smart and clever.
The issue is that he's a little older, and had been injury prone in college before his senior year. I think that'll scare some teams off. But teams need problem solvers on the field and various spots, and that's what Verso does.
I'm also a big fan of right back Keegan Rosenberry, though I'm not sure he's underrated any longer.
How much does being a Generation adidas player affect where a player is drafted?
MD: Because of the various roster incentives – Homegrowns, non-roster players, etc – the GA status doesn't mean quite as much as it used to. There are always a few who go at pick 15 or later, and if you look through the last six or seven drafts you'll see quite a few GA guys who crash out of the league by year two or three. It's not a guarantee.
That said, guys don't get the GA status by accident. Teams are better at scouting than they used to be and good at identifying the kind of talent they really want. So it still matters – just not quite as much as it used to.
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