Since the introduction of the all-encompassing MLS SuperDraft in 2000, there have been 16 players deemed worthy to be the prestigious No.1 choice at the key offseason event – but what has happened to some of these players? Who became leading men in the MLS and who retired wondering what could’ve possibly happened? Jamie Dawe investigates…
Cyle Larin (2015) – Selected by and currently with Orlando City
Larin may have only spent one season in MLS so far – but what a season it was! A new rookie record of 17 goals for Orlando City in only 27 appearances has proved Larin to be a sublime finisher in front of goal. His fine season included hat-tricks against the Red Bulls and NYCFC as he showed his range of abilities in and around goal (remember that drive from outside the box against Chicago Fire).
Add to this the four goals he has picked up on international duty with Canada this year and you have one tantalising prospect for the future. You can only wonder how long he can resist the temptation of European football, even if it has only been one season in MLS so far…
Maurice Edu (2007) – Selected by Toronto FC, currently with Philadelphia Union
Edu’s first season in MLS after being drafted in 2007 was a major success, with 25 appearances and four goals resulting in the MLS Rookie of the Year award, becoming the first No.1 pick to receive it. Edu was sold to Glasgow Rangers in August 2008 for £2.6 million and had four successful years in Scotland before the bankruptcy of the club forced him to leave.
Three underwhelming years at Stoke City in the Premier League followed and Edu now finds himself back in MLS as one of Philadelphia Union’s Designated Players. A total of 46 international appearances for the USA show that even though there may have been some rocky patches – Edu’s career has been a success. He has become an integral part of the Union side now and is at home in MLS.
Honourable mentions: Andrew Farrell (2013), Chance Myers (2008), Marvell Wynne
(2006) & Alecko Eskandarian (2003)
Freddy Adu (2004) – Selected by D.C. United, currently with Tampa Bay Rowdies
Anyone who claims to be a devout follower of world football will have certainly heard of Freddy Adu – the man once dubbed ‘the next Pele’. However, this incredible comparison has yet to come to fruition, and is highly unlikely to.
Drafted in 2004 at the incredibly young age of 14, Adu was thrust into world football’s limelight with D.C. United – scoring his first MLS goal just two months shy of his 15th birthday. Adu signed with Benfica at the age of 18 and spent four years either with the side or on loan around the world before moving back to MLS in 2011.
This would turn out to be a poor spell with Philadelphia Union, before then moving to Bahia in 2013. After two more turbulent years, Adu now finds himself with NASL outfit Tampa Bay Rowdies. He still has 17 international caps with the USMNT to his name, however, considering his expected ability and predicted potential, he hasn’t quite turned out to be the next Pele. You can’t put him down as anything other than a failure – although he still left his mark on MLS history with his incredible SuperDraft selection.
Steve Shak (2000) – Selected by New York MetroStars, now retired
Shak will forever be able to hold on to the fact that he was the first ever No.1 MLS SuperDraft pick. However, there was nothing much more to shout about in the rest of his MLS career – which lasted three disappointing seasons. Shak wasn’t expecting to be drafted until at least the second round and the MetroStars’ (now Red Bulls) surprise draft choice was never vindicated. A poor return of one goal from 32 appearances highlight a more than underwhelming return in his two seasons with the side, before he then moved to the Colorado Rapids, for whom he appeared six times before being released. Shak went on to retire in 2009 at the age of 31 after fulfilling none of his potential.
Honourable mentions: Chris Carrieri (2001), Chris Gbandi (2002), Nikolas Besagno (2005) & Steve Zakuani (2009)
Andre Blake (2014) – Selected by and currently at Philadelphia Union
Blake was chosen by the Union at the age of 23 – the oldest No.1 pick in the history of the SuperDraft – but with goalkeepers peaking significantly later than outfield players, Blake was still chosen as one for the future. However, since being drafted by the Union, he has made more international appearances for Jamaica (12), than league appearances for the Union (7), so it would be fair to say he’s found first team opportunities hard to come by. Though with the Union planning to rebuild after a poor season, Blake is one of two goalkeepers still on the roster for 2016 and this may be his year to show his true potential.
Omar Salgado (2011) – Selected by Vancouver Whitecaps, currently with Tigres UANL
Salgado is still very much a player of immense talent – and at 22, age is still on his side. Only 26 appearances and one goal for the 6ft 4in forward in his three years in the MLS seems poor – but Salgado had his fair share of injuries. He fractured his foot in 2012 and then again in 2013 – the latter making him miss an entire season. Salgado was purchased by Mexican side Tigres UANL at the start of 2015 – but has yet to make an appearance for the first team as he spent time on loan with the Tampa Bay Rowdies in 2015. Sooner or later, he needs to make an impact, otherwise his career is in danger of sinking before it has even really began.
Honourable Mentions: Danny Mwanga (2010) & Andrew Wenger (2012)
Joshua Yaro (Georgetown)
Yaro is a capable all round defender who will happily play at centre-back or at full-back. He is a product of the Right To Dream Academy in Ghana, who have produced current MLS players in David Accam and Dominic Oduro. At 5ft 11in, his future will more than likely be out wide, rather than in the heart of the defence, but part of the draw to Yaro is that he is such an adaptable player. He is willing to play in the centre, left or right of defence as well as in central midfield. Yaro is viewed as the most likely player to be chosen by Chicago Fire as the No.1 overall pick at the upcoming draft.
Brandon Vincent (Stanford)
A teammate of the much fabled Jordan Morris, Vincent has been crucial in taking the Stanford Cardinals to the College Championship crown. As another 5ft 11in defender, his future is more than likely on the flanks of defence, a position of need for many MLS sides. So, expect him to be drafted in the first 5 picks, if not as the No.1 overall selection.
Abu Danladi (UCLA)
Another Right To Dream Academy graduate, Danladi has been in the US since 2011 and has significant potential as a flamboyant winger. Undoubtedly the best prospect as a winger at the 2016 SuperDraft.
Fabian Herbers (Creighton)
Herbers is a 22-year-old German with an already high reputation. One season in the fifth tier of German football as a teenager saw him score 25 goals with 17 assists. A capable player in a wide role or ‘in the hold’ behind the striker, he can give any MLS team an invaluable attacking option and could be an early pick.
Who do you think will be the best prospect at the 2016 MLS SuperDraft?