Ever since Patrick Vieira started his tenure as manager of New York City FC, the club has made a note of making big splashes in the MLS SuperDraft to get the player he and Claudio Reyna have grown fond of the most. In 2016, intrigue surrounded the Chicago Fire and their selection of Jack Harrison — first overall — only to find out within the hour that he would be going to NYCFC as part of a draft day trade (Chicago received the 4th overall pick which they used to draft Brandon Vincent). In 2017, Vieira and Reyna struck another SuperDraft deal, once again with the Chicago Fire, and sent $250K in general allocation money in exchange for the third overall pick, which NYCFC used to draft Jonathan Lewis. Then they followed that up by trading into the first round once again, this time getting back their 16th pick from the Seattle Sounders, sending $75K in general allocation money in order to draft Kwame Awuah.
So it goes without saying that the Boys in Blue are unafraid of making waves on the day of the SuperDraft. Currently, New York City is slated to draft 19th overall, a far cry from where the likes of Harrison and Lewis were drafted. While there are mock drafts out there which give an approximation of who the team may draft, I don’t expect the club to sit back and wait their turn this year, especially if there’s a player who’s caught their eye. In fact, there are three players slated to go in the first round that NYCFC may trade up to try and acquire. Drum roll please:
Mo Adams, M Syracuse
There are a lot of reasons to break out the ol’ tinfoil hat when it comes to forming a conspiracy theory that NYCFC is in on drafting Adams. The English defensive midfielder has drawn strong reviews coming out of his sophomore season at Syracuse. A former Nottingham Forest and Derby County product, Adams made the move stateside to play soccer at the collegiate level in the hopes of finding a different avenue toward a professional career. If this sounds familiar to you, it should: Adams has followed a similar path to professional soccer as our very own starlet Jack Harrison. They even both played in the ACC, albeit for different schools. In addition, Adams is a Generation Adidas signing, just like Harrison and Lewis were when NYCFC drafted them (Lewis will remain a Generation Adidas signing again in 2018). Defensive midfield depth will be a point of emphasis for the club in 2018, and Adams is regarded as the most talented one in this year’s draft. And if you needed any more proof to believe that he’s on the club’s radar look no further:
Solid job by the Blue Balls Podcast on this detective work. One point of note, though, is that Adams is an international player (a common theme you’ll see), so drafting him will require the team to open up an international slot to claim him under.
Jon Bakero, F Wake Forest
A MLS senior signing, Bakero might not seem like a prototypical Vieira and Reyna type at first glance. However, there are signs that he could be coveted by City. First, he’s a 6’3” forward with soft feet and the vision and passing of a no. 10. Second, he’s a prospect with strong bloodlines, as his father is one-time Barcelona FC star Jose Mari Bakero. And, as mentioned by Jon Rojas in the Soccer in the City Podcast, Jon Bakero shares the same agent as one David Villa, and has even received encouragement and advice from El Guaje himself. On top of all of that, the kid can play. Spending the last four years in Wake Forest (he was a teammate of Jack Harrison), Bakero put together an impressive collegiate career which culminated in the MAC Hermann Trophy this year. Given his ability, bloodlines, club ties, and the fact that he can fill an open need on this club (his height makes him a potential forward option that this team has tried to pair with Villa for years now), I would not be surprised to see NYCFC move up in the SuperDraft to acquire Bakero. Like Adams, though, he would take up an international slot if they do acquire him.
Joao Moutinho, D Akron
While Moutinho might have a lot of question marks, he’s still a player that might fit with what City is looking for in the SuperDraft. Despite playing as a central defender in college, there are many questions as to whether he can stick there, with many wondering if he will switch to left back or become a defensive midfielder. No matter his position, the talent is obvious. Another Generation Adidas signing, Moutinho has a lot of the raw tools that Vieira and Reyna are seeking. He has the technical ability to play with the ball at his feet, and as a central defender or defensive midfielder he can fill a spot that doesn’t necessarily need depth, but more talent — something Vieira covets as a manager. Like the players mentioned before him, Moutinho would take up an international slot if he’s taken by the club. While he doesn’t quite have the same amount of ties to the club as the others do, he did play for Akron University — the same school that Jonathan Lewis came from and is a noted program for producing professional talent.
It’s still anyone’s guess what Vieira and company will do for the SuperDraft, but trying to guess what the club is thinking is half the fun, right? At least for me it is. If you have any other players that you think the club could make a move for, be sure to let us know in the comments!