By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (Jan 7, 2019) US Soccer Players – The curtain on the 2019 MLS season unofficially opens this Friday with the SuperDraft. Although an influx of younger players continue to stream into the league without entering the draft, the MLS SuperDraft remains a major source of talent for Major League Soccer.
Despite being secondary to the academy system, many college underclassmen will join MLS via the Generation adidas program before the draft. There’s also a healthy crop of seniors will battle for the top spots come the big day in Chicago. Although many former college stars have found MLS fame, it’s worth noting that only two first-round picks, Maurice Edu and Cyle Larin, have won the MLS Rookie of the Year award.
The SuperDraft, in its current form, was first held in 2000 as a combination of the MLS College Draft and the Supplemental Draft. FC Cincinnati picks first over the four rounds with MLS champions Atlanta United going last. Choosing second are the San Jose Earthquakes, followed by Orlando City SC and FC Dallas, who acquired the pick from the Colorado Rapids.
American-born players aren’t the only ones in the draft. In fact, the last US-born player to be chosen first overall was in 2013. That honor went to defender Andrew Farrell, chosen #1 by the New England Revolution. Last year’s top pick was Akron defender Joao Moutinho, chosen by the then-expansion LAFC. Following last week’s MLS Combine, here are five seniors, in no particular order, who could top the SuperDraft and why they could have bright MLS futures.
Brad Dunwell (Defender, Wake Forest)
While defensive midfielders don’t usually get lots of attention, although they should, Dunwell is one of those players who may get lots of looks come draft day. The former US Under-15 player possesses all the skills needed to succeed in MLS. He has a good work late, is an excellent passer, and he’s not afraid to help both the backline and the attack.
For Wake Forest in 2018, Dunwell played in 21 games, starting all of them, but put up his worst numbers at the NCAA level in his four years with just two assists. Despite the team’s potential to go far, Dunwell could only help the them reach the third round of the College Cup playoffs. Defenders are also very much in demand. Last year, 10 defenders out of 23 selections went in the first round.
Callum Montgomery (Defender, UNC Charlotte)
A leader on this nationally-ranked team for four years, Montgomery, a defender, also has what it takes to make it in MLS. A hard-nosed backline player, this senior can also double as a holding midfielder. It’s this type of versatility that can help Montgomery rise in the draft order.
The Canadian-born Montgomery played in 21 games during the 2018 season, recording three goals and four assists in the process. He became the ninth player to earn All-American honors in the school’s history as well as a Hermann Trophy semifinalist.
Logan Gdula (defender, Wake Forest)
Like Dunwell, Gdula is another senior who could go high in the draft after a successful NCAA career. With a goal and five assists in 21 matches (starting in all of them), Gdula could very well go in the first round, following in the tradition of many other members of the Demon Deacons to go pro.
Gdula is one of five Wake Forest players to participate in the MLS Combine. For teams looking for a quality right back, Gdula will be a much-sought after asset. He’s a player with the right attitude who knows how to win after helping Wake Forest capture four straight ACC Atlantic Division titles.
Andre Shinyashiki (forward, Denver University)
The country’s top scorer this past season and a MAC Hermann finalist, the Brazilian-born Shinyashiki could be go early in the draft on the strength of his stats. He scored a staggering 28 goals in 2018 for the University of Denver and captained the team as a senior.
A classic goal poacher, Shinyashiki fights for every ball. His speed in the offensive third and ability to get open make him an offensive threat. Whether he can contribute to the same degree on the MLS level is the question. Shinyashiki could very well be part of a starting scoring tandem for any team willing to take a chance on him.
Santiago Patino (forward, Florida International
With 51 goals in 69 games over four years, Patino is one of the most talented college strikers in recent memory. He’s also coming off a wonderful 2018. Patino finished the season third in Conference USA in goals scored with 12 and second in goals-per-game with a 0.75 average. He ended the season 11th in the nation in goals-per-game and 15th in total goals.
Those numbers are a big part of the story, but there’s more. At 6-foot-1 and nearly 200 pounds, Patino has the skill and physicality to compete at the MLS level. Although strikers to come out of the draft often struggle to get playing time as rookies, Patino would make a quality addition for any team looking for offensive depth.
Clemente Lisi is a regular contributor to US Soccer Players. He is also the author of A History of the World Cup: 1930-2014. Find him on Twitter:http://twitter.com/ClementeLisi.
More from Clemente Lisi:
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- MLS 2018 season in review
- Henry, Gerrard, and Lampard on the sidelines in Europe
Photo by Michael Janosz - ISIPhotos.com