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Re-drafting the Union: Part Two

This is the second and final installment of a series imagining what the Union would look like had previous SuperDrafts gone differently. Here’s part one.

Eugene Rupinski / Brotherly Game

2013 - Round 2, Pick 7 (26th Overall)

MLS: Real Salt Lake at FC Dallas Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Devon Sandoval, Forward, New Mexico

Original Pick: Don Anding, Forward, Northeastern

Perhaps more disappointing than any pick the Union had made up to this point was the decision to trade the No. 5 pick in the 2013 SuperDraft to sign Bakary Soumare. Soumare suited up just three times for the Union, and the Vancouver Whitecaps were able to take Erik Hurtado with the fifth pick.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, players like Deshorn Brown, Walker Zimmerman, Dillon Powers, Eriq Zavaleta, and Taylor Kemp were still on the board when the Union would have picked.

Brown netted 20 goals in two full seasons with the Colorado Rapids, Walker Zimmerman just started 30 games for Supporters Shield Winner FC Dallas, Dillon Powers has 13 goals and nearly twice as many assists over the course of four years, Eriq Zavaleta nearly won MLS Cup last month with Toronto FC, and Taylor Kemp has logged over 2,200 minutes back-to-back seasons at DC United. If that doesn’t make you sad, then I’m not sure what will.

With all of that said, and the players left on the board at No. 26, I’m taking Devon Sandoval. He’s been a solid hold-up center forward of the bench for Real Salt Lake and has done well in spot starts when needed. Sandoval has seven goals and three assists in 36 starts since joining RSL.

In the grand scheme of things, missing on this pick isn’t the end of the world, but we’ve had a lot worse options than Sandoval up front at times.

Oh yeah, and Don Anding made one 30 minute cameo for the Union. One. Not two.

2013 - Round 2, Pick 12 (31st Overall)

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Dylan Remick, Defender, Brown

Original Pick: Stephen Okai, Mobile

We’ve failed to find a left back of the future, in this draft and in reality. In 2013, the Union used this pick on a defensive midfielder from the University of Mobile. Really. Stephen Okai, like a handful of these picks, failed to appear for the club in MLS action.

Dylan Remick has yet to really break through as a consistent starter, but given the team he plays for, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. In terms of physical tools, Remick was a state-level sprinter at the high school level so his pace to get into the attack and track runners on the defensive side are there.

With his pace and tactical awareness, Remick is barely out of position, and even when he is, his speed is more than enough to make up with it. Easily one of the better young two-way fullbacks in the league, Remick is better than the numbers dictate.

In four seasons with the Seattle Sounders, the 25-year old has made only 44 appearances. After his contract was not picked up by Seattle, the Houston Dynamo selected him in Stage 1 of this year’s Re-Entry Draft. With DaMarcus Beasley’s situation still up in the air, I expect Remick to see the field plenty in 2017.

2014 - Round 1, Pick 1

Soccer: 2018 FIFA World Cup Qulafying-Mexico at USA Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Birnbaum, Defender, California

Original Pick: Andre Blake, Goalkeeper, Connecticut

Bear with me. I know Andre Blake was spectacular in his first full season as an MLS starting goalkeeper and is coming off of winning Goalkeeper of the Year, but at this point, with Sean Johnson already on the roster, I’m looking elsewhere. As hard as this decision was to make, I was trying to be as unbiased as possible.

We all know how great Blake was in 2016 so I won’t waste time trying to back that up. Instead, I will try to shine light on why I went with Steve Birnbaum here. As I said, our starting goalkeeper is on our roster so using the No. 1 pick on a goalkeeper seems unrealistic, especially with as mature of a defender as I’ve seen coming out of college.

Birnbaum has been a regular for DC United from day one, logging more than 1,800 minutes in each of his first three seasons as a pro. At 6-foot-2, the California-native has established himself as one of the most dominating defensive and aerial presences in MLS. In addition to stifling opposing attacks, Birnbaum has found the back of the net five times for the black-and-red. He even scored his first international goal against Iceland in a January 2016 friendly.

Given our defensive struggles and lack of depth at center back, Birnbaum simply makes sense here, regardless of how good Blake was for one season.

2014 - Round 1, Pick 15

MLS: New York City FC at D.C. United Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Thomas McNamara, Midfielder, Clemson

Original Pick: Pedro Ribeiro, Midfielder, Coastal Carolina

I’m sure the Union would like to have this pick back. Pedro Ribeiro is far from being as bad as the Hoffman pick, but it certainly didn’t play out the way that they would have hoped.

In 2014, Ribeiro made nine appearances for Philly and netted two goals in the process. His time in Philly was cut short when he moved on to expansion side Orlando City SC in 2015. In his first season putting on the purple shirt, Ribeiro quickly became a favorite of former head coach Adrian Heath. Ribeiro managed two goals and as many assists in 18 appearances, including 9 starts in 2015.

2016 was a whole new story for the Brazilian. He saw just 152 minutes of playing time over the course of three appearances for the Lions and had his contract option declined at the end of the season.

Tommy McNamara has become a fan favorite at NYCFC, and who doesn’t love a fan favorite? More importantly, the dynamic playmaker has produced in the Big Apple. In two seasons, he has found the back of the net ten times and has helped his teammates do the same on 12 occasions. Tommy Mac has the ability to be a big-time difference maker. He is always a threat to do the unthinkable with a proven track record of scoring golazos.

2014 - Round 2, Pick 6 (26th Overall)

MLS: Western Conference Championship-Seattle Sounders at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Jared Watts, Midfielder/Defender, Wake Forest

Original Pick: Kevin Cope, Midfielder, Michigan State

To put it nicely, Kevin Cope didn’t work out. To put it less nicely, his career failed to the extent that he is no longer involved in the game at any professional level. With that said, let’s not dwell too much on that fact.

Jared Watts was available for the Union and quite a few other teams before he was selected by Colorado with the 33rd pick. Watts has made 43 starts in three seasons and played every minute of the Rapids’ four playoff games in 2016. Comfortable at both center back and defensive midfielder, Watts could hold down a spot in most Starting XI’s around the league.

2014 - Round 2, Pick 8 (27th Overall)

MLS: Club America at San Jose Earthquakes Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Mark Sherrod, Forward, Memphis

Original Pick: Robbie Derschang, Defender, Akron

Robbie who? For anyone that says they remember this pick, I’m calling your bluff. Most picks after the first round of the SuperDraft are insignificant, and this one definitely fits that bill. Derschang is another one of the many players to hear their name called by the Union and never step onto the field.

Look, if I’m being honest, there were very few players left at this point that should even sniff an MLS roster. The best of the rest? Mark Sherrod. After a promising rookie season in Houston that was cut short by injury, Dom Kinnear brought Sherrod to San Jose when he took the Earthquakes coaching gig.

Despite setting a career-high for minutes played in 2015, he has yet to score since he netted twice in nine appearances as a rookie. Regardless, something is better than nothing at this point.

2014 - Round 3, Pick 6 (44th Overall)

MLS: Sporting KC at Philadelphia Union Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Richie Marquez, Defender, Redlands

Original Pick: Richie Marquez, Defender, Redlands

Richie Marquez will probably go down as the best Union draft pick in the club’s history. If someone else comes along to take that title away, then I’ll be ecstatic. If nobody does, I still can’t complain. Realistically, nobody expects to get any value out of the back end of the SuperDraft. Shockingly enough, Philly found a diamond in the rough with Marquez.

After not making a single appearance as a rookie, the story line looked all too familiar. Coming out of the Division III University of Redlands, simply getting drafted was a huge accomplishment. However, Marquez broke through in 2015, making 20 starts. Heading into 2016, he was one of the constants in the Starting XI, and he didn’t disappoint. The California-native logged over 2,800 minutes in 33 starts and even managed to score twice.

Looking forward to 2017, Marquez will look to continue to cement his position as one of the better center backs in all of MLS.

2014 - Picks 46, 52, 63

MLS: SuperDraft Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Original Pick No. 46: Alex Sweetin, Midfielder, Saint Louis

Original Pick No. 52: Aodhan Quinn, Midfielder, Akron

Original Pick No. 63: Luca Gimenez, Midfielder, Wake Forest

Unsurprisingly, with three picks between No. 46 and No. 63, the Union missed the mark. In light of that truth, no teams found true difference makers once Richie Marquez was off the board.

Since there are no MLS prospects even left on the board at this point, I’ll just stick with the originals to save us all from the boredom that would ensue.

2015 - Round 2, Pick 10 (31st Overall)

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Miller, Goalkeeper, Northwestern

Original Pick: Dzenan Catic, Forward, Davenport

To start, the Union once again traded away their first round pick in 2015, this time for C.J. Sapong. Luckily, Sapong has been significantly more successful than Soumare was in Philly. With that said, if we were on the clock at No. 10 we would have still had options such as Saad Abdul-Salaam, Tim Parker, Axel Sjoberg, and Cristian Roldan.

Now, onto the actual pick. Catic failed to appear for the Union even once. I know, what a shocker that is. Tyler Miller has made just one MLS appearance with the Seattle Sounders in large part due to the fact that he’s stuck beyond one of the league’s best in Stefan Frei. Miller has been apart of the national team set-up with the U-18s, U-20s, and U-23s.

Despite being a back-up at the moment, it won’t be long before he gets a fighting chance as a No. 1 goalkeeper somewhere. At 6-foot-4 with huge hands, Miller is a natural goalkeeper and has demonstrated the ability to organize a backline. With Sean Johnson on the roster, I’ve passed on both Zac MacMath and Andre Blake, but its about time we sign a tidy back-up. That’s exactly what you get with Miller along with plenty of potential.

2015 - Round 2, Pick 20 (41st Overall)

MLS: CONCACAF Semifinal-Alajuelense at Montreal Impact Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Cameron Porter, Forward, Princeton

Original Pick: Eric Bird, Midfielder, Virginia

While it’s hard to do any worse than someone who has not touched the field in MLS, Cameron Porter has done a whole lot better. This pick is based on one thing and one thing only: potential.

After signing a contract with Montreal on February 7, 2015, Porter scored his first professional goal 17 days later. It wasn’t just any goal though. This goal forced a 2-2 draw against Pachuca in CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal, giving the Impact the series win on away goals.

In his first and only MLS start to this point, Porter tore his ACL in the first half, ending his entire 2015 season. It would appear as though he never fully recovered as he failed to made just two appearances in 2016 after a move to Sporting Kansas City.

Porter may struggle again for consistent playing time, being stuck behind Dom Dwyer and Diego Rubio. If he can ever regain some of the form he showed before his injury, he offers a whole lot of value this late in the draft.

2015 - Round 3, Pick 9 (51st Overall)

MLS: Western Conference Championship-Seattle Sounders at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Dominique Badji, Forward, Boston

Original Pick: Aaron Simmons, Defender, California

The Union’s 2015 SuperDraft was bad if you haven’t noticed. Like really bad. With the 51st pick, Philly again failed to get any value whatsoever as they selected another player that never made an appearance for the club.

It’s who they left on the board that really stings. Dominique Badji looks like a promising young forward, and Colorado got him with the 67th pick. Colorado has a thing for pacey forwards with natural goal scoring instincts. Shortly after losing Deshorn Brown, they landed Badji so they’re doing something right.

The Senegal-native followed up a two goal rookie campaign with six goals in 27 appearances, including 17 starts. Badji is the complete opposite of a one-trick-pony as he created plenty of opportunities for teammates as well, handing out four assists to go with his six goals in 2016.

With Dwyer getting the bulk of the minutes up front, Badji adds some valuable depth at the forward position as one of the better options off the bench in the league.

2015 - Round 4, Pick 9 (71st Overall)

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Orlando City SC Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Tony Rocha, Midfielder, Tulsa

Original Pick: Raymond Lee, Midfielder, Saint Louis

Believe it or not, Raymond Lee managed to get more minutes under his belt than the previous three 2015 picks by the Union. Of course, that’s because none of the other three made an appearance. Lee got the run out for just 12 minutes in his rookie season.

After being selected with the 73rd pick by Sporting Kansas City, Tony Rocha found himself playing for the Austin Aztex of USL. In 2016, Tony Rocha joined Orlando City B and shortly thereafter joined their MLS side.

Rocha showed some promise in the center of the park for the Lions in eight appearances in the club’s second season since entering the league. You can never have too much depth in midfield, and at the very least, Rocha could pan out as a serviceable substitute and spot starter.

2016 - Picks 2, 3, and 6

MLS: Philadelphia Union at Columbus Crew SC Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Original Pick No. 2: Joshua Yaro

Original Pick No. 3: Keegan Rosenberry

Original Pick No. 6: Fabian Herbers

After a disastrous 2015 SuperDraft, the Union appeared to get everything right in 2016. Three picks in the Top 6 certainly don’t hurt, but getting players that fit your system and can perform at a high level immediately is a tough task for anyone. In his first off-season with the club, the task wasn’t too big for Sporting Director Earnie Stewart.

Joshua Yaro was viewed as a “can’t miss” prospect at No. 2, but it was the Union’s second pick that turned some heads. With players like Brandon Vincent on the board, Jim Curtin and Earnie Stewart settled on Keegan Rosenberry, a college teammate of Yaro’s at Georgetown.

Rosenberry had spent time with the Union’s academy so the technical staff had the upper hand in knowing what they were getting with him. By all standards, however, the Ronks, PA native exceeded expectations by playing in all 3,060 minutes and earning a starting spot in the MLS All-Star Game.

Yaro was impressive in his first season as a pro in his own right, starting in 15 games at center back.

With the 6th pick, Philly selected Fabian Herbers, a prolific forward out of Creighton. Of the three first round picks, Herbers was the question mark. He quickly put any doubters at ease by appearing in 32 games, eventually earning a starting role on the right flank toward the end of the season. When it was all said and done, Herbers netted three goals and managed to rack up seven assists.

Finalizing a Roster

With the rather easy decision to stay put in the 2016 SuperDraft, that leads me to the even tougher part, building the roster. For those that are not aware, MLS rosters can not exceed 28 players. Considering the fact that I covered 30 draft picks without mentioning the players that the Union have acquired by other means, making cuts is a necessity. In addition to the players mentioned above, I included the following players on the current roster when trying to get down to a 28-man roster:

  1. Roland Alberg
  2. Fabinho
  3. Eric Ayuk
  4. Alejandro Bedoya
  5. Brian Carroll
  6. Charlie Davies
  7. Ilsinho
  8. Maurice Edu
  9. Derrick Jones
  10. John McCarthy
  11. Chris Pontius
  12. C.J. Sapong
  13. Ken Tribbett
  14. Auston Trusty

After tasking myself with turning 44 players into a functional 28-man roster, this is what I came up with in terms of what a depth chart may look like.

Note: This does not take into consideration salaries or anything to do with the cap.

The Starting XI

As if cutting players that are better than some of the options we have in reality wasn’t difficult enough, I took it a step further. Below is what a Starting XI may look like. Under Jim Curtin, the Union have played a 4-2-3-1 almost exclusively. With that said, I tried to fit players into that formation rather than change to formation to suit the players that I have.

While it’s unfair to expect every SuperDraft to provide the results that 2016 did, you can see from these graphics that the Union have left plenty of quality on the board in recent years. Seeing some of the names that have gone on to be successful elsewhere opens the mind to endless possibilities.

Here’s just a small sample of some situations that may have arose:

  • If we did select Tim Ream in 2010, given the fact that he would likely go to England regardless, the Union could have profited from a transfer fee and bought new talent.
  • By passing on Blake, could he have been even better than he was in 2016 by going elsewhere and getting immediate playing time?
  • Would Richie Marquez ever get discovered playing behind Ream and Birnbaum?
  • What positions would be considered weaknesses that need to be addressed?

Now that I’ve addressed every SuperDraft pick made by the Union, what we’ve missed out on, what could have been passed on if we didn’t miss out initially, and what moves we could have avoided outside of the draft, it’s your turn.

Would you do anything differently? Who would you draft? Who would you keep and who would you let walk?