After owning the 2016 MLS SuperDraft with three of the top six picks, the Philadelphia Union front office staff will be spectators for the first round of the draft when it comes around again in Los Angeles in January.
While that’s not necessarily a bad thing - even a struggling Alejandro Bedoya is better than the 11th overall pick that went to Chicago Fire to acquire him - it means that it’s highly unlikely any of the four picks the Union end up drafting will play anywhere but Bethlehem next season.
The first pick for the Union won’t come until the second round with the 33rd overall selection, and it will be followed by another that will depend on the performance of the Colorado Rapids in the playoffs (thanks, Zac MacMath). The Union’s natural third round pick will come next at No. 77 overall and they’ll finish the draft with a future trivia question pick in the fourth round acquired from NYC FC for defender Ethan White.
For some context, the three previous picks at 33rd have included FC Dallas attacking mid Timo Pitter, Seattle Sounders FC goalkeeper (and Woodbury, N.J. native) Tyler Miller and Colorado Rapids midfielder Jared Watts. None are world beaters, but all three were still decent acquisitions. (Side note: Is Seattle willing to trade Tyler Miller?)
It’s helpful to remember too that Union center back Richie Marquez was the 44th selection in the 2014 draft and he’s one of five still on the first-team roster taken after the music has faded in the draft. This group includes Cole Missimo (No. 64), Leo Fernandes (No. 62), Warren Creavalle (No. 37) and Ray Gaddis (No. 35).
While it’s still early to tell who will be back with the first team next year or how the Bethlehem Steel FC roster will shape up, here are some potential scenarios for the draft.
The Union did a lot of wheeling and dealing last year to get Joshua Yaro, Keegan Rosenberry and Fabian Herbers as three of the top six picks so a trade to get back into the first round is possible, especially if it’s to acquire one of the following players who could be a target.
Connor Maloney, F, Penn State
Spent time in the Philadelphia Union Academy system before it was full-time so he’d be another pick like Keegan Rosenberry that the Union is already familiar with and has seen in training and at Reading United.
Gordon Wild, F, Maryland
Signing Sebastian Elney to a homegrown contract and bringing in his strike partner at Maryland could be one way to bolster the front line for the future, but assuming he signs a Generation adidas deal the second-year player from Germany won’t be hanging around the draft very long.
Alec Ferrell, GK, Wake Forest
Whether Andre Blake stays another year or jumps on the offers that are undoubtedly coming his way, the Union are going to need a goalkeeper and Ferrell is one of the best at the position in the college ranks.
There is no shortage of players with ties to the region - and also the club - who will be draft eligible. Here are some standouts.
Jorge Gomez Sanchez, F, Temple
Gomez Sanchez has been a goal-scoring machine in his two seasons with the Owls, finding the back of the net 26 times and counting. While he’s mostly done this under the radar - and he’d take up an international slot - he’s sure to get more attention as the draft gets closer. If he doesn’t go earlier, it sure would be fun to see him in a Steel FC kit.
Alec Neumann, F, Penn
The Union missed out on drafting Steve Neumann a few years ago so why not give his younger brother a look?
Guillermo Delgado, F, Delaware
He and Gomez Sanchez have a lot in common. Both are forwards with a nose for goal who hail from Spain and will be fun to watch wherever they land next season.
Brian Nana-Sinkam, D, Stanford
Tomas Hilliard-Arce gets all the attention and is a candidate for a Generation adidas deal, but Nana-Sinkam is a solid center back in his own right who spent time with the Union Reserves before heading to California. While young center back isn’t really on the offseason wish list, he’d be a welcome addition fighting for playing time in Bethlehem.
Best player available
College talent is really hit or miss and hard to evaluate even for those of us who follow it closely. But if any of these players are still hanging around, the Union should take a hard look at them.
Nathan Regis, F, Pfeiffer
The Union struck out with Dzenan Catic out of NAIA but did well drafting Richie Marquez from DIII Redlands. Regis has torn up Division 2 the past four seasons to the tune of 76 goals last time I checked.
Tucker Hume, F, North Carolina
A really tall forward who puts pressure on the defense just by being on the field.
Mac Steeves, F, Providence
If you miss the days of Conor Casey and the chant imploring him to eff somebody up, Steeves is the guy for you.
Napo Matsoso, MF, Kentucky
A fun player to watch even for a Louisville fan like me, Matsoso is dynamic on the ball and covers a lot of ground in the middle of the field.
Robby Sagel, D, Penn State
Has been a force on the back line and in the air the past two seasons at Penn State and two seasons before that at Temple.
Brian Wright, F, Vermont
Doesn’t get the attention he deserves playing in Vermont, but has been a steady presence there for four seasons with 32 goals and 22 assists. He’s Canadian, but might be an international spot worth taking a chance on.
Players with cool names
Nazeem Bartman, F, South Florida
Likely a high first-round pick, but he he’s first on the list if you are picking just based on the name.
Brandt Bronico, MF, Charlotte
A dynamic midfielder whose name doesn’t come up near enough in the national conversation.
Reagan Dunk, D, Denver
Has been a big reason for Denver’s dominance over the past two seasons.
Thales Moreno, MF, Clemson
The Brazilian impressed in Clemson’s run to the College Cup final last season.
Mueng Sunday, MF, Drake
A playmaker from Iowa who gets zero attention because he plays at Drake (wait, where is that again?).
A human highlight reel
Just search the name Russell Cicerone on YouTube and you’ll see what I’m talking about. The University of Buffalo forward has a collection of videos worth watching ahead of draft day (and that’s saying something because many of them are on a football field with gridiron lines).