This past weekend, all of the MLS blogs on SB Nation took part in a mock draft, meant to simulate Thursday's MLS Super Draft.The Super Draft, which was first created fifteen years ago, is when the league's teams select players who have graduated from college or otherwise been signed by the league.There's four rounds: the first two are held Thursday, and the final two will happen on Tuesday, January 20, over a conference call.
Despite the league's growth, the Super Draft is still a solid talent acquisition vehicle. On any given match day, the majority of MLS players will likely have played in college. With that in mind, we briefly polled people to see what they thought New York City's needs would be. We also studied the players available to see whom would be the best fit for the team.
There's a chance that New York City could trade the number two pick. Jason Kreis hasn't ruled it out, and a pick that high could bring a nice package of players and picks. But my guess is that, absent some kind of blockbuster trade deal that nets New York City an immediate starter, they hang on to the pick.
So: whom can we expect Jason Kreis, Claudio Reyna, and the rest of the New York City brain trust to select?
For the purposes of this article, let's postulate that Jason Kreis will, primarily, employ a diamond midfield. That is, after all, what he used at Real Salt Lake, with a lot of success. Now, it's entirely possible that New York City could line up in a different formation; one of the reasons City Football Group had him spend time in Manchester, working with Patrick Vieira and Manuel Pellegrini, was so that he could implement the "Manchester City" way of play in New York City.
What that means, exactly, I don't know. Everyone wants to play possession-based, attack-oriented soccer; and Kreis' Salt Lake teams played that way often. But there's nothing about a diamond formation that precludes that kind of soccer.
If Kreis is using a diamond midfield, then New York City's biggest need is for a "number 6" type midfielder. In other words: someone like Kyle Beckerman. None of the four central midfielders on New York City's roster -- Ballouchy, Grabavoy, Dunn, or Jacobson -- specialize in that role. Of the four, Grabavoy has the most experience in it, but he's more of a midfield shuttler.
[SIDEBAR: What's that? Essentially, a midfield shuttler runs the midfield channels on either side of the deep-lying playmaker to drag their team up the field and into attacking positions.]
That said, the safe move in any draft is to take the best talent on the board. That's going to be either forward Cyle Larin of UConn, or midfielder Cristian Roldan of Washington. Both are Generation Adidas signees. We expect that Orlando will pick Larin, so New York City will go with Roldan.
Roldan, who just finished his freshman year at Washington, is young. But that youth belies the fact that he's one of the most exciting young prospects in the draft. He's a crafty playmaker, can play anywhere in the midfield, and he's a dynamic option who can break down opposing attacks. His youth means that he probably won't be starting right away, but New York City should have a sufficiently deep midfield that it probably doesn't matter if he doesn't see playing time until the middle of the season.
So that's the second pick. What about the 23rd pick?
There's two areas of concern for New York City: defense, specifically left back, and forward. From my perspective, left back is less of a need than forward; New York City will be starting Chris Wingert, and I think there's decent options available as free agents.
Forward, though, is another matter. Right now, there's three forwards on the roster: David Villa, Patrick Mullins, and Tony Taylor. Villa, we know about. Mullins had some highlights in his rookie year, but the former Revolution striker tailed off significantly in the second half of the season, before making his mark in the MLS Cup Final. Taylor is literally a blank slate; nobody's seen him in action since about 2012.
For that reason, I think they'll go with a forward here. That's why I had New York City select Ricky Garbanzo of Coastal Carolina.
Garbanzo is another product from Coastal Carolina, which is building a reputation for developing players who possess a high work-rate. Garbanzo is talented and versatile enough that he can play either forward or midfield; players who possess that kind of versatility are useful indeed.
We'll see how our predictions turn out on Thursday. If you want to see the rest of the mock draft, here you go.