Outside of an academy in it's infancy, the MLS SuperDraft is the best opportunity for the Philadelphia Union to accumulate young talent. The idea of building around a young core was something the Union front office once touted as the foundation of the franchise. Those days have come and gone, along with many of the players that have been drafted by the Union. In fact, from the six drafts the Union have been a part of, only four players on the current roster were drafted by the team.
This year Earnie Stewart and Jim Curtin are looking to use the two picks in the top six overall to grab players "that will not only come in, but come in and contribute." That all sounds well and good, but it isn't exactly something the Union have been good at. Looking at players drafted in their rookie seasons, only four have come in and made eight or more starts. Those lucky 4 are Danny Mwanga (17 starts) and Kyle Nakazawa (8) in 2010, Michael Farfan (13) in 2011 and Ray Gaddis (17) in 2012. If you increase the search to rookies that made 10 appearances in MLS games only 2010 draftees Amobi Okugo (11 appearances) and Jack McInerney (17 appearances), and Antoine Hoppenot (25 appearances) from the 2012 class.That's right - from six years of drafting, only seven players have come in and made appearances in 10 or more games their rookie year.
While some in the area can't see a way the Union screw up with two of the top six picks, it's actually something they've done pretty well at. I compiled rookie stats for the top six picks from the last six MLS SuperDrafts and found the Union were one of the worst teams in that span.
- Only the Vancouver Whitecaps have had more top six picks in the last six years than the Union, with five picks to the Union's four. (New England also had four picks.) Those picks were Danny Mwanga (2010 - #1), Amobi Okugo (2010 - #6), Zac MacMath (2011 - #4), and Andre Blake (2014 - #1).
- The Union ranked dead last out of the 15 teams that have picked in the top six in average appearances in the player's rookie season. Union rookies have averaged 11 appearances that first year. Mwanga lead the Union picks with 24 appearances, but Okugo (11), MacMath (8), and Blake (1) all brought down the average.
- In terms of starts in their rookie year, the Union rank 12th, with just 7.25 starts a rookie. Once again Mwanga (17) lead the way, but MacMath (7), Okugo (4) and Blake (1) trailed behind.
- It comes to no one's surprise that the Union have failed to hold on to their top picks. Only 25% (just Blake of the four) are still with the Union. That ranked them 11th out of the 15 teams, but the ones below them were the Colorado Rapids, New York Red Bulls, and Sporting Kansas City (as well as Chivas USA, who no longer exist) who all only picked once.
It is important to note that this will be both Jim Curtin and Earnie Stewart's first crack at top 6six picks in the SuperDraft, so we can only hope that this will truly be a new area for the Union.