LOS ANGELES, CA – Vancouver Whitecaps FC selected right back Jakob Nerwinski and centre back Francis de Vries in the first two rounds of Friday’s 2017 MLS SuperDraft.
What exactly do they bring to the table? Let’s take a closer look.
JAKOB NERWINSKI: RIGHT BACK (SEVENTH OVERALL)
First and foremost, Nerwinski addresses a positional need for Vancouver.
The ‘Caps needed to strengthen the right back position after the departures of 2016 loanees Fraser Aird and Jordan Smith. They’ve now done that with Nerwinski and Sheanon Williams, who was acquired from Houston Dynamo earlier in the offseason. In fact, Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson said that he expects Nerwinski to compete for minutes from day one.
“I think he’s ready to play now,” Robinson told reporters.
Nerwinski said one of his best attributes is his athleticism – and that was on full display at the MLS Player Combine. The 22-year-old had the fastest time in the 30-metre dash (3.87 seconds), the second best vertical jump (34.5 inches), and the fourth best agility test.
He’s fast, he’s strong, and he likes to get up and down the line. He also likes to compete.
Here’s what his UConn teammate told Neil Davidson from the Canadian Press about Vancouver’s first-rounder, who co-captained the team as a junior and senior.
“Jake Nerwinski is the engine of the team,” said Kwame Awuah, who was selected 16th overall by New York City FC. “I've known him for four years and he's always been the same type of player. Even as his name started getting more out there, he still put his head down and worked hard … and I really appreciate someone like that because he wasn't all finesse. He was more the grinder, he just got the job done. He wanted to win.”
Nerwinski had five goals and 17 assists in 81 appearances for the Huskies.
He’s still working on the technical side of the game, but according to Matthew Doyle from MLSsoccer.com his “decision-making in the final third was more advanced than most figured it was” at the MLS Combine.
“Nerwinski tested out as probably the second-best athlete at the draft, and his decision-making in the final third was more advanced than most figured it was,” Doyle wrote in his pre-draft analysis. “Add those two things to his undeniable commitment on both sides of the ball, and you have the makings of a solid pick for a team that could use a little bit more depth at right back.”
FRANCIS DE VRIES: CENTRE BACK (29TH OVERALL)
De Vries is listed as a 6-foot-2 centre back (he’s also spent some time as a holding midfielder), so it might surprise you to hear that he had 15 goals over his last three seasons at Saint Francis.
It makes a lot more sense after watching his highlight reel.
The New Zealand native has a lovely left foot, which made for some absolute peaches during his collegiate career – as you can see below.
It also makes him an excellent distributor from the back, which the latter part of this video does a good job of highlighting. Whether or not de Vries can make it at the next level will likely defend on his ability to shut the door on the defensive side of the game.
“De Vries has a wonderful left foot that he can use to pick out runners just about anywhere on the field,” wrote Doyle, who actually had de Vries going 12th overall in his final mock draft. “Everybody knew that coming into the combine. What they didn't know is if he'd be able to keep up with some of the quicker attackers at the event, and he passed nearly every test."