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Report: Union eyeing top three pick in SuperDraft

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The Union are reportedly willing to spend money to land one of the top picks in Friday’s draft

MLS: Combine
Francis Atuahene (20) takes a shot on goal against the Team Tango during game 2 of the 2018 MLS Player Combine at Orlando City Stadium.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

It was always a strong possibility that the Philadelphia Union - having no pick until 54th overall - would look to deal themselves into one of the first two rounds of the MLS SuperDraft at the Pennsylvania Convention Center on Friday.

But a tweet from Kevin Kinkead on Saturday night citing unnamed sources stating that the Union are looking to land a top three pick sent shockwaves through a fanbase already frustrated with the painfully quiet offseason to date.

The Union have only signed one new player in the offseason, that being forward Cory Burke from Bethlehem Steel FC. They are reportedly set to sign Wake Forest defender Mark McKenzie to a homegrown deal and could also add left back Matt Real from Bethlehem but there have been precious few signs that a high dollar No. 10, a veteran center back and additional reinforcements are actually on their way.

With six first team roster spots to spare, the Union are not done by any means filling out the squad with the season still more than a month away, but given the diminishing returns in the SuperDraft over recent years it’s understandable why fans would be skeptical of even a top five pick providing the immediate impact a team that finished in eighth place needs.

Moves already made this offseason clearing nearly $3 million in salary budget space does make it possible that any deal for a first-round pick won’t interfere with plans for the long-awaited attacking midfielder or other players needed to improve the team.

But the story of how the Union got to this point - needing to deal their way into the SuperDraft’s main event (rounds three and four are held via conference call) - is more reason for fan angst. The pick, which would have been eighth overall, was dealt to the New England Revolution in a trade for Charlie Davies in 2016. Davies, who is not returning in 2018, made only 11 appearances for the first team (no goals) and had a goal in one appearance with Steel during his time in Chester.

While losing a first rounder for Davies was a clear misstep for a team that takes the draft seriously, similar deals have worked in the Union’s favor before.

CJ Sapong was acquired from Sporting Kansas City for the eighth overall pick in 2015, while Union draft picks Andre Blake, Marcus Epps, Santi Moar (Bethlehem Steel FC), Josh Yaro, and Fabian Herbers were the result of trades. Warren Creavalle was also acquired in exchange for a draft pick.

Los Angeles FC, LA Galaxy and DC United hold the first three picks on Friday. An early consensus in the often laughably wrong draft prognostication business has formed around Stanford center back Tomas Hilliard-Arce, Wake Forest forward Ema Twumasi, and Michigan forward Francis Atuahene as being three of the top talents available. Others in the conversation include Indiana freshman forward Mason Toye and Akron freshman defender Joao Moutinho.

Of that group, only Hilliard-Arce is a senior. The other four are members of this year’s Generation adidas class, which brings an added incentive: player salaries are not charged against a team’s annual salary budget. In other words, it may cost the Union money up front to acquire the pick, but the overall investment comes with benefits on the salary side.

Like all deals done around the draft, it’s hard to say with any level of certainty how any player will pan out.

In some cases, like with Blake or fellow UConn alum Cyle Larin, you can end up with a franchise player while in others your eighth overall pick is well worth giving up to acquire a player like Sapong who has scored 32 goals in three seasons (SKC used the pick to draft Connor Hallisey, who is no longer in the league).

In still other cases, you can find a real gem in the late rounds as the Union did drafting Jack Elliott 77th overall last year. In addition to the 54th and 55th picks in the third round this year, the Union also have that lucky No. 77 again. Their 54th pick was part of the Davies trade with New England while their second round pick was sent to the New York Red Bulls to acquire the homegrown rights for Adam Najem last offseason.

Poll

Should the Union make a deal to acquire a top five draft pick?

This poll is closed

  • 19%
    Go for it
    (25 votes)
  • 11%
    Just don’t
    (15 votes)
  • 8%
    Depends on what they give up
    (11 votes)
  • 61%
    I don’t care as long as they sign a No. 10 Designated Player
    (80 votes)
131 votes total Vote Now