Just like that, with minimal fuss, it was all over. Twenty players picked, twenty players making arrangements to move from one city to the other. Orlando City made their selections; if you want to see whom they picked, visit The Mane Land.
New York City's first and last picks were wholly expected. But in between, there were some real surprises. Keep in mind, though, that some of these players may not be wearing City Blue for very long, if at all. Past drafts have seen players picked that were then traded -- either back to their old teams, or to another new team. Claudio Reyna is on record saying that they expect to keep between five and seven of their selections.
With that in mind, let's take a look at New York City's newest players. I didn't expect that they'd pick a DP-worthy player, and they stuck to that script; this is a MLS-veteran-heavy salad of picks.
1. Ned Grabavoy, MF, (from RSL): This was totally expected. The 31-year-old midfielder is incredibly versatile, able to play all four positions in Kreis’ preferred mid-field diamond formation. That matters significantly, because Lampard (assuming he’s here from the start) is nowhere as versatile, and will likely be deployed up top. Grabavoy was one of Kreis' keystone players at RSL; I fully expect him to be a keystone player for him here in New York City..
2. Patrick Mullins, F (from NER): Another widely expected pick. David Villa is the focal point of New York City's attack, but he's suffered injuries in the past, and at 33, he's no spring chicken -- although he led Atlético Madrid to the Champions' League Final this year. Mullins, a two-time Hermann Trophy award winner as the nation’s top player in college, is a physical, left-footed forward, who is highly active both on and off the ball. This past season for New England, he appeared in 21 games, starting 14 of them. He scored four goals and had one assist. Although he cooled off considerably towards the end of the season, he had a sparkling game in the MLS Cup Final, setting up Chris Tierney’s equalizing goal late in the game, and nearly scoring a go-ahead goal in extra time. Mullins is scrappy, tough, and being a decade younger, will do the hard work so Villa can score.
3. Jason Hernandez, D, (from SJE): This was the first surprising pick by New York City. I don't think anyone had forecasted his selection by either team. That said, his selection by NYC makes sense. Hernandez has been a workhorse for San Jose; he was the last player remaining from their inaugural season in 2008. That means he's got experience in these kinds of situations. This past season, he started all 20 games he appeared in. He's also a New York City native, playing at Seton Hall in college. He's the kind of player that beats you with smarts, not physicality. One other thing to keep in mind: Hernandez is what's known as a "glue guy", the kind of guy that melds teams together and helps them achieve at a higher level.
4. Daniel Lovitz, D (from TOR): Another surprising pick. Lovitz was picked by Toronto in this year's Super Draft. He's a smooth, technical player, able to deliver crosses from the left into the box. According to scouts, he's got plenty of speed, and the skill to beat his marker on a 1-on-1 basis. At 23, he can start right away; the question is whether he can displace one of the many, many midfielders on New York City's roster. Lovitz can defend and attack and he's got a good engine, meaning he can serve as a box-to-box midfielder. This past season, he appeared in 18 games, starting five, and had two assists and no goals.
5. Tony Taylor, F (from NER): Easily the biggest surprise of this whole draft. No one had him penciled going anywhere; but here he is, a New York City player. Taylor has nine minutes of MLS experience. Yes, you read that right:
Nine minutes of MLS experience.
He's got four years of professional experience, playing for Estoril and Atletico Clube in Portugal, before moving to Cyprus and playing for Omonia Nicosia. In Portugal, he scored 12 times over the course of his three years there; his stats indicate he scores in bunches. For example, in the 2011-12 season, Taylor scored three times in 10 matches for Atletico Clube, before returning to Estoril for the second half of the season where he helped the club win the league and earn promotion with two goals in seven games.
He's the wildest of wild-cards. I don't think anyone's seen him play since 2012, when he was part of the U-23 team that failed to qualify for the London Olympics. That said, here's what Matthew Doyle had to say about him:
He struck me as, more than anything, an inside-out attacker who lines up at forward but actually pulls wide in the final third as, more or less, a winger. This is the way Fabian Espindola plays, but I hesitate to make that comparison since Espindola is a ball-dominant player while Taylor was very much not when I saw him last.
Of note: that type of player is excellent for pulling apart defenses and allowing lanes for goal-scoring midfielders. Like, you know, Frank Lampard.
6. Mehdi Ballouchy, MF (from VAN): Mehdi Ballouchy is an excellent selection for New York City. A creative midfielder with excellent touch and vision, Ballouchy has eight years of MLS experience, playing for San Jose, Colorado, Vancouver...and the New York Red Bulls and Real Salt Lake. In fact, he's one of Kreis' former teammates; the two played the 2006 season together, before Kreis retired to become RSL's coach in 2007. Ballouchy becomes the first Red Bull to swap shirts with their cross-state rival. His creativity and penchant for setting up his teammates in the attacking third should be an asset for New York City.
Here, watch some highlights:
John missed all of 2014 with a knee injury and saw his option not picked up by the club earlier this month. The veteran defender had knee surgery back in July and then again in October.
Thanks, Drew. So, that's a red flag. But if John is healthy, he's a rock; in 2013, he logged over 2,000 minutes in the back line. In 2011, he played nearly 2,800 minutes. He can score, as well: he's got six career goals.
Put it another way: when healthy, George John was one of the most talented defenders in MLS, regularly rumored to be Europe-bound. He's just 27; if he's fully recovered, New York City may just have discovered their rock in the back. Here's hoping that Kreis and Reyna saw something that no one else has.
8. Thomas McNamara, MF (from DCU): TOMMY MCMULLET HAS COME HOME! HUZZAH!
OK, now that that's done with...I remain convinced that McNamara is destined to be a cult hero here in New York City. He reminds me of one of those stocky Argentine midfielders, complete with crazy mullet and the moves to match. As I wrote yesterday, he was one of the few bright spots for Chivas USA in their ill-starred final season of play. Then he blew out his knee, and spent the rest of the season recovering. He hails from upstate New York (West Nyack, to be precise), and he’d be a solid fit in New York City’s midfield. Here, have a look:
If you note something from that highlight package, it's that McNamara always seems to be wide open, taking up acres of space. He's the kind of guy who makes things happen, and I think Kreis is going to use that to lethal advantage.
9. Sal Zizzo, MF (from SKC): Sal Zizzo was a rock in midfield for Portland in their inaugural season, playing 30 games. That number went down to 20, then 10, before he left for SKC. He's a positional amoeba; he can play both midfield and defense, and with the number of midfielders on the roster now, I fully expect that he plays defense, like he has in the past, and becomes a full-time back. I don't expect him to start a ton of games, but it's always good to have guys like that who can be deployed multi-dimensionally.
10. Chris Wingert, D (from RSL): New York City's draft ended with an expected pick in Chris Wingert. Grabavoy and Wingert were ironbound, dependable guys for Jason Kreis at RSL, and they're going to be that for him here in New York City. Wingert is a left back who can play and distribute the ball out of the back. More importantly, with these selections, it's becoming clear that Kreis is going to play a diamond formation with the team.
With respect to that, Kreis is fond of saying "it takes more than one year to learn the system". In Wingert and Grabavoy, he's got two excellent players who know that system cold, and will effectively serve as field coaches, executing and relaying Kreis' instructions to the rest of the team.