With 2018 rapidly coming to a close, it’s time to look ahead to 2019. The next big thing on Sporting Kansas City’s offseason schedule is the 2019 MLS SuperDraft. I guess it’s super because there were so many not so super drafts going on over the last few weeks with the Waiver Draft, two Re-Entry Drafts and an Expansion Draft.
However, it could be argued the SuperDraft is anything but for most teams around the league. Peter Vermes and Sporting KC really made a name for themselves by drafting players that would go on to be stars, including current players Matt Besler, Graham Zusi and Roger Espinoza. The common theme among those players? They are “old.” Espinoza was drafted nearly 11 years ago in 2008 and Bes and Zues were picked a decade ago in 2009. But this isn’t a story about drafting history, we’ll save that for another day, instead this is about the future.
It’s still early in the SuperDraft process, but despite that, the Combine starts in just a few days on January 3rd and the draft itself is on January 11th. This is not the NFL draft. These players will likely not get on the field immediately, if at all. Graham Smith, a first round pick by SKC last season, got two rare starts and 180 minutes of league play in 2018. His counterpart, fellow first rounder Eric Dick didn’t get on the field (how could he with Tim Melia in front of him?) though he did get in the 18 periodically and he and Smith featured heavily for the Swope Park Rangers, with Smith becoming Captain by year end.
So now that I’ve got you sufficiently unexcited, shift your focus to this potential draft pick starting for SPR, and you’ll know what to expect.
Where Do Sporting KC Pick?
By virtue of making it to the MLS Western Conference Finals and expansion club FC Cincinnati joining the league, Sporting will hold the 21st overall pick in the first round and each subsequent round.
- 21st Overall — First Round
- 45th Overall — Second Round
- 69th Overall — Third Round
- 93rd Overall — Fourth Round
This is the first time Sporting KC have all their natural draft choices going into draft day (though there are still nearly two weeks to give some away) since 2010 when they were still known as the Kansas City Wizards. On that day the Wizards selected Teal Bunbury 4th overall (Ike Opara went one spot before him to the San Jose Earthquakes and later came to SKC for a 2013 second round pick), Korede Aiyegbusi, Nick Cardenas, Mauro Fuzetti and Ofori Sarkodie.
Mock Draft Selections
Akeem Ward - Left Back - Creighton University (Top Drawer Soccer)
We’ll start with TDS because they are the definitive source for college soccer information. This is what they had to say about Ward and his fit with Sporting KC.
“Jaylin Lindsey finally broke into the starting XI as a left back in 2018, but projects as a right back long term. Ward is a quality two-way left back that should either compete for a starting spot or get significant minutes in USL.”
Ward stands just 5’7” tall and weighs 150 pounds. According to Creighton, Ward started 16 of 18 games as a Junior for the team but played in all 18 matches. As a senior, he played in and started all 18 games, going the full 90 (or further due to OT rules in college) all but twice. He also played alongside defensive teammate and former SKC Academy member Bryce Gibson.
In the college offseason Ward also got time in 2016 & 2017 with USL League Two side Lane United FC. They play out of Eugene, Oregon and are in the same division as the U-23 teams for the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders. In League Two, Ward appeared 23 times for 1,977 minutes and added three assists over those two years.
TDS pegs him as an attacking left back and he did have two goals and four assists as a senior. This move could make sense as, outside of Jimmy Medranda, all the rostered left backs are on the back end of their careers. However, this pick wouldn’t make much sense to me, as his only hope is playing in 2019 is for Swope Park and they only have seven players on the roster and only one defender, and it’s a left back. Justin Bilyeu seems the likely starter and even a candidate for a fringe SKC roster spot. If anything, your first round pick should be the USL starter at his position.
Mitchell Osmond - Center Back - University of Rio Grande (USL League Two)
USL League Two, formerly the USL Premier Development League, knows a thing or two about college soccer since many amatuers put in minutes on League Two sides outside of the tiny college soccer season. Their mock draft has 22 of the 24 players selected having put in time with League Two clubs.
Osmond played for the Thunder Bay Chill in USL League Two, who are in the same conference as Kaw Valley FC, who are a developmental partner of Sporting KC’s. Osmond has his least productive year with them in 2018 getting just nine appearances for 470 minutes but he played three years in League Two and racked up 36 appearances, 2,569 minutes, one goal and four assists.
Osmond was the 2017 USL PDL Defensive Player of the Year and it appears he put out a highlight package of himself (center back highlights are the best). He plays a position where Sporting KC could use depth since they are down to just five CBs on the roster (Besler, Opara, Andreu Fontas, Botond Borath and Smith). Also SPR have no CBs under contract having let go of Amer Didic (SKC loanee), Matt Lewis and Dakota Barnathan.
He’s also 6’3”, which is good size for the position but my one concern is he’s from Sydney, Australia. If he would use up an international roster spot, I can’t imagine SKC making that move. Then again, Daniel Salloi should be getting that greed card anytime now so maybe international spots aren’t that big of a concern. Then again, that’s good flexibility to have and if nothing they can be traded for quite a bit of Allocation Money.
Abdou Mbacke Thiam - Forward - University of Connecticut (Draft Utopia)
Start with his highlight package and it seems clear he’s a center forward but he plays out wide as well. He is a bit undersized at 5’11” and 160 pounds, but SKC is filled with guys like that, even in the middle of the forward line. His name appears to be pronounced “bach-E jon.” Draft Utopia sells the pick like this:
“Sporting Kansas City grabs a forward here. Abdou Thiam is a late first round talent who could surge up potentially even higher [than] this. Thiam is a proven goal scoring striker with fantastic speed.”
To their credit, Draft Utopia are consistent. This is listed as their third version of the mock draft and they previously had forward Mark Forrest out of Lehigh pegged to SKC. Let’s focus on Thiam though.
Center forward is a definite area of need both for SKC and SPR. SPR do have SKC Academy signee Wilson Harris but he’ll need competition and Thiam has wide ability and speed as well. With the other starting forwards Kharlton Belmar, Tyler Blackman and Hadji Barry all gone, SPR really needs forwards. For UConn he had 77 appearances (all starts) over four years with 46 goals (only six from PKs) and 18 assists. 10 of his 18 assists came in 2018.
Thiam could also possibly be an international as he’s from Senegal. He’s an intriguing prospect and if he falls all the way to the end of the first round he seems like a guy worth taking a chance on.
2018 Mock Drafts: A Retrospective
Looking back quickly at 2018 will remind you of the error of this process. It’s a complete crapshoot. We wrote a piece highlighting three possible targets, SKC got none of them. All the SB Nation blogs got together and did a mock last year and we missed on both of those picks. Interestingly, Eric Dick, who Sporting ultimately picked in the 13th spot, wasn’t in the mock until the 40th pick to the LA Galaxy. Graham Smith wasn’t in either of the two mock rounds.
In the six mock drafts we highlighted last year, none of them predicted Smith or Dick. So really, it’s anyone’s guess. Add to that the fact that Sporting are picking much later in the first round so it’s going to be even tougher to know who is likely to still be on the board.