(First) Thoughts on 2008 MLS SuperDraft (Focus on C’bus and Rapids)

Part of me wants to say the highlight of the whole thing was the ESPN commercial with the dude on the fishing boat. Mind, that was a fantastic commercial, but I now accept that I haven’t missed much by not seeing past SuperDrafts. That’s not to say there weren’t real, draft-related highlights, a quick rundown of which will appear below. And I’ll wrap up with some thoughts on the first-round picks made by my two adopted teams, the Columbus Crew and Colorado Rapids.

I’ll start, however, with the first 14 picks…assuming I can remember the final three; MLSnet.com’s Draft Tracker is dragging ass for some reason. Right, the top 14:

1. Chance Myers, M (Kansas City Wizards)
2. Brek Shea, M/D (FC Dallas)
3. Anthony Beltran, M/D (Real Salt Lake)
4. Sean Franklin, M/D (Los Angeles Galaxy)
5. Ciaran O’Brien, M (Colorado Rapids)*
6. Andy Iro, D (Columbus Crew)*
7. Patrick Nyarko, F (Chicago Fire)
8. Josh Lambo, GK (FC Dallas)
9. Julius James, D (Toronto FC)
10. Pat Phelan, M/D (Toronto FC)
11. Roger Espinosa, M (Kansas City Wizards)
12. Dominic Cervi, GK (Chicago Fire)
13. Rob Valentino, D (New England Revolution)
14. David Horst, D (Real Salt Lake)

Now, some thoughts on the picks, the broadcast, and, for me, one hell of a surprise.

– A tease like that obliges one to start with the surprise. LA shipped Chris Albright to the New England Revolution. Wow. Guess that makes Jay Heaps expendable. Hell, Albright is even similar in style to Heaps – e.g. good on set-plays and competent – better, actually – at getting forward. Is it a good pickup? I don’t know and seeing who the Revs picked at #13 – e.g. a defender – only deepens my confusion. Sure, their defense gave up more in 2007 than in 2006, but that didn’t really seem like the problem spot to me.

– Going the other way, I think LA helped themselves by getting some allocation cash. Given Albright’s injuries last year, that cash could very well help them more.

– The other finalized trade during the SuperDraft may be old, but it’s official now: Alecko “Esky” Eskandarian to Chivas USA in exchange for allocation money to Real Salt Lake. There’s a rumor about that Ante Razov may be on his way out. Not the craziest idea…unless the plan boils down to bringing in Esky to cover for a departed Razov. That’s nothing like an even swap.

Turning now to the actual event…

– The interviews with the drafted players were flatly painful. I know it’s not easy talking on camera, especially given the questions (e.g. “What makes you so good?” How do you answer that?), but credit both Chance Myers and Patrick Nyarko with having the bland sports patter down well enough.  They’ll get better.

– Curiously, the phone interview from the U.S. training camp with Landon Donovan was no less painful. Was it just me or did I detect a hint of disappointment about Carlos Ruiz’ impending arrival. What might that portend? OK, probably nothing, but still. The whole conversation was embarrassingly stilted, almost as if Landon was playing Halo 3 when they called him.

– My personal highlight of the broadcast came with the way the #3 and 5 picks clearly caught Rob Stone and, especially, John Harkes off-guard. That takes some doing because Harkes is pretty smooth on camera. Both men seemed hesitant to say much when Tony Beltran’s name was called, but it was Colorado’s selection of O’Brien that really tripped them up. You could see Harkes pause for a second. After an internal “what-the-hell” pause, however, he rather pointedly questioned the pick. All I could think was, I hope O’Brien couldn’t hear it.

– Overall, though, the names that drew the most chatter going into the SuperDraft sat for a surprising amount of time. Patrick Nyarko went at #7, Julius James at #9. At time of writing, Eric Avila is still waiting (I just saw New England pick up Michael Videira at #18 or so). So the “unpredictable” tag that was kicked around all week…yeah, that pertained. Can’t wait to see these cats take the field.

Mmm…enough of that. Moving on to the first-round picks for “my” two teams:

Colorado Rapids
It’s not just that I don’t remember seeing Ciaran O’Brien’s name anywhere that has me, again, questioning where Fernando Clavijo got his coaching license. Between Stone’s and Harkes’ reaction and O’Brien’s dual citizenship, this one looks pretty dubious. His absence from the few mock drafts I read combined with the broadcast-tripping reaction makes me think he won’t make the grade. Assuming, however, everyone is wrong, his dual citizenship only makes a bolt abroad more likely if things do pan out. So, yeah, this tentatively looks like another “victory” for Clavijo.

Columbus Crew
Andy Iro, huh? Maybe it’s what I read about him on Soccer By Ives that has me scratching my head. Between Iro thinking he can catch on abroad, his talk about being interested only in specific markets – and it’s hard to imagine Columbus being one of them – and, finally, one coach’s opinion on Iro’s abilities (Iro “he [has] bucket for feet and [will] struggle in MLS”), I’m wondering if the Crew didn’t pick the wrong defender. That said, I can’t wait to see what the kid has. And I loved his little moment with the Crew fan; makes me think he’s OK going to the Crew.

Well, here’s to the new blood.

I’ll be back later today with a rundown on all Columbus and Colorado’s picks. And I hope to expand on them in future.

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