The Union enter the 2016 Superdraft desperate for new talent to help them climb out of the basement of Major League Soccer. The Union could lose help at every position except for goalkeeper, having settled on Andre Blake as the starter and John McCarthy as the backup.
The draft will take place on Thursday January 14th in Baltimore, Maryland. The Union have the two picks in the first round, the 3rd and 6th overall, and one pick in each of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th rounds.
3rd pick- Union’s pick: Brandon Vincent- Left Back, Stanford
Over the last week, a consensus top three players have emerged in Georgetown center back Joshua Yaro, Wake Forest midfielder Jack Harrison, and Stanford Left back Brandon Vincent. Each of these players has the potential to be impact players immediately in Major League Soccer. Each of these players would fill a need for the Union, but Vincent is the one I think will be available at the 3rd pick. Vincent has experience at every position on the defensive line and helped lead Stanford to 11 shutouts in the 2015 season including the National Championship game against the high powered Clemson offense.
Vincent showed some prowess going forward during the season, tallying six goals and adding two assists, and he showed that ability in his first day at the MLS Combine. His Combine was cut short however as he was called up by Jürgen Klinsmann to the USMNT January Camp where he will train alongside stars and MLS veterans alike. Vincent has the skills to be a top level defender in Major League Soccer and continued USMNT callbacks only increases his marketability, making an impact both on and off the field for the Union
Alternate pick: Joshua Yaro, Jack Harrison
6th pick (Houston’s pick from the Chaco Maidana and Andrew Wenger trade): Keegan Rosenberry- Right back, Georgetown
Keegan Rosenberry spent time with the Philadelphia Union Academy before attending Georgetown but the Union’s homegrown claim on Rosenberry was denied for “being a few training sessions with the first team short”. But the team has invested a lot in its academy and shouldn’t let its players get away. The sixth pick is a little high for Rosenberry but I think the Union trade down to Toronto’s ninth pick. Toronto would want a shot at one of the coveted Generation Adias players in the draft as it will allow them to add an impact player without going over the salary cap.
The Union will add another defender to help improve the league’s worst defense in 2015 and will start to see the fruits of the labor in one of their first academy products.
Alternate pick: Julian Buescher, M, Syracuse
Side note: Colorado’s second overall pick
The Union could have had the Colorado Rapids second overall pick, but Colorado weaseled its way back into control of the selection. As part of the 2015 loan for Zac MacMath, the Rapids had the option to buy MacMath permanently after the loan ended in exchange for their first round pick in 2016. They decided to decline the option to sign MacMath permanently. The goalkeeper sent back to the Union and promptly released, as Philadelphia had found their long term starter in Andre Blake. Colorado then swooped back in and signed MacMath to a contract without giving the Union anything.
The results: Colorado gets to keep their first round pick, number two overall, and keep Zac MacMath while the Union ended up with nothing.
23rd pick: Miguel Salazar, CDM- Elon
This maybe a bit of a homer pick as I attend Elon University and commentate for their soccer games, but Miguel Salazar is ready to make the leap to MLS. Coming out of the Real Salt Lake Academy, Salazar lead one of the most successful classes in Elon history with three conference championships and three NCAA tournament berths. Salazar, a team captain, was the point man for a stingy Elon defense. He shielded the defense like a true center defensive midfield, leading the team to nine shutouts including the regular season #1 team, Wake Forest.
Salazar offensive game needs some polishing but his defensive abilities make him a very suitable back up to help prevent goals while starters rest. MLS has recognized his ability by calling him into the MLS Combine along with the other top prospects in the country. The Union have yet to resign backups Michael Lahoud and Warren Creavalle and with Brian Carroll nearing retirement, the Union need a young CDM to backup Vincent Nogueira and Maurice Edu.
44th pick: Jamie Luchini, Forward, Lehigh
After looking to sure up the defense in the first couple picks, the Union look to find the backup striker to CJ Sapong by selecting Jamie Luchini out of Lehigh University. Luchini had 10 goals, 9 assists, and 29 points during his senior season at Lehigh in 2015 and received an invite to the MLS Combine. Luchini has the ability to play multiple offensive positions at the MLS. If Luchini is unable to find a spot in the first team immediately for the Union, he can very easily be sent down to develop at the Bethlehem Steel who will play in Lehigh’s Goodman Stadium, Luchini’s college home field. Luchini would have the opportunity to develop in the USL while drawing his college fan base to support his new team.
64th pick: Nathan Diehl, Right back- Elon
Another homer pick, but in the fourth round the draft is a crap shoot with most players not making the team’s final roster or ending up on loans to lower division. One under the radar move would be to draft the rights to Elon’s Nathan Diehl. Diehl is still debating his future in soccer and has elected to take time off but as a senior is eligible for the Superdraft. But he is another player from that stout Elon defense that many would overlook. Diehl, a UNC transfer, was the CAA defensive player of the year and is a fantastic one on one defender. In addition, he is a big target on set pieces standing at 6 feet, taller than most outside backs. He scored 4 goals for the Elon Phoenix this year, 3 of them off of set pieces. Diehl had the potential to be a first round pick but with Elon being a small school and the uncertainty about his future; he would be a steal for the Union in the fourth round if he elects to return to soccer.
Photo: Jim Shorin-stanfordphoto.com.