Jose Gomez in action for Creighton during his senior season - Creighton Blue Jays Athletics
There are always a few players that surprise in the later rounds of drafts and the 2013 MLS Draft will almost certainly feature a few such players. Take a look at a few targets that might just turn out to be a late round steal in this year's Supplemental Draft
The MLS Supplemental Draft is set to take place tomorrow. It will go down without the fan fare that came with the SuperDraft and will be conducted via a league wide conference call. For fans that want to follow along with the draft the place to be will probably be twitter but MLSsoccer.com is planning on running a live draft tracker to keep us all up to date.
Toronto FC, who traded their first round supplemental pick to New York, will have the 20th, 38th, 39th, and 58th selections in the draft. The chances of the club landing any serious talent with those selections are fairly low but it is not completely unheard of that a decent player enters MLS in the third round of the draft or later.
With all of the top prospects off the draft board there are a few names that seem to have slipped and still remain. Will any of them be around by the time TFC gets to select at 20th? We shall see but here are a couple of players to keep an eye on tomorrow that might just turn out to be contributors down the road.
Ashton Bennett - FWD - Coastal Carolina:
It was not that long ago that people were mentioning Bennett as a possible first round pick and even as a potential top five pick to TFC. That would have been a stretch of O'Brian White proportions but it was still being put out there. Now he finds himself having slipped all the way out of the two rounds of the SuperDraft. His international status might have scared some of the American teams off but that does not explain why none of the Canadian teams even took a chance on bringing him in. He has speed and a decent eye for goal that should see a team select him early in the Supplemental draft but with TFC still being thin at forward he might be a nice pick up should he be around at 20th.
Jose Gomez - AMC - Creighton
One of the top ranked seniors in college this past year and a key part of leading Creighton deep into the NCAA tournament finds himself still waiting for a home in large part because he does not fit the MLS mold for what an attacking midfielder should be. He is undersized and can disappear for long stretches of games when a team decides to shadow him and take away his space. Indiana exposed this in the College Cup by never giving him an inch of space while he was on the ball and it made him ineffective. He needs to learn how to create space for himself and deal with that sort of marking but his other skills are certainly there. He can create and score as well as almost anyone in the draft class but the questions about his ability to make an impact in MLS are why he remains on the board. He could also end up looking for options south of the border so getting him signed and in to camp is not guaranteed.
Eric Schoenle - CB - West Virginia
For the two previous years Schoenle was talked up as being a potential addition to the Generation Adidas class but he was always on the boarder line of being included and with the classes constantly shrinking he ended up staying at West Virginia for his full four years. Even with that he was still considered to be one of the best defenders in the senior class this year and a possible first round selection. His stock has fallen so far and the most likely reason is because of his lack of size and strength. His West Virginia profile lists him at 6-2, 147! Yes, that is wire thin and people are concerned that he can't handle any sort of physical game and that his small frame is not going to fill out any time soon. He makes up for the lack of size with great aerial ability and above average quickness but clearly the lack of size scared teams off of taking him in the earlier rounds.
Will Bates - FWD - Virginia
Maybe MLS clubs know something about the injury that cost a large chunk of his junior season or just consider a blown out knee at his age to be a red flag but there is no doubt that Bates has an eye for goal. He scored 46 goals in 77 games at Virginia including scoring in double figures for three of his four seasons. His numbers will be enough to see a team in need for forward depth take a chance on him in the Supplemental rounds even if he was not the first round selection that many thought he was capable of being. At 6-0, 180 pounds he has a good build for a forward and can create goals a number of different ways.
Chris Thomas - FWD - Elon
53 goals in 81 games at Elon, four straight years scoring in double figures, 23 goals as a senior. That is the resume for Chris Thomas but almost no one considered him to be an early round target in this years draft. He even had a strong combine that got some people talking about him as a player who might surprise folks down the road. The problem with Thomas is that he has top shelf finishing but every other area of his game comes with question marks. He struggles to combine with teammates, is uncomfortable with his back to goal or holding up the ball, and lacks high end pace. Any team that selects him would be taking on a project but that is to be expected in this stage of the draft. The good news is that he has the natural ability to score goals in bunches and that is valuable even if the rest of his game is suspect.
Joe Franco - RB - Cal State Northridge
His stock was certainly not helped by the fact that his college career came to a premature end thanks to an ACL injury and the fact that he is still recovering may push him into the later stages of the Supplemental Draft as teams are afraid to take a risk on him. If a team does take a chance on him they could get a bit of a steal in one of the more steady RB's in a draft class that is thin at that position. He has decent pace, can get forward when needed, and is solid at defending 1-v-1 on the wing. He has all the tools to be a solid outside defender but not much more than that which is alright for a Supplemental draft pick. He does not have the athleticism to be a great two-way defender but he knows that and plays within his limitations which makes him a solid option for a team like TFC that could use some depth on the right side of their defense.
Alex Isner - MF - Winthrop
The people I have talked to about Isner feel that is he were not Spanish and in need of an international roster slot he might have been selected in the first two rounds of the draft. The fact that he is an international as well as being 25 years old already will probably still limit most teams interest in him even at this stage. If a team does take a chance on him they will land a player who turned some heads at the combine with his technical ability. He has the skills to overcome those two massive red flags but the Barcelona native will be hard pressed to prove he is worth an international slot to whatever team selects him.
James Belshaw - GK - Duke
The debate over who was the top GK in this draft was primarily between Belshaw and Soffner but most gave the nod to Soffner because they felt he had higher potential and the fact that Belshaw is English and would take an international roster slot from whatever team selected him. He was the best keeper at the combine and had a very solid career at Duke giving up just 69 goals in his 60 career appearances. For a team looking for a depth at keeper he is the best option left on the board by some margin. His 6-3 frame and decent athletic ability make up for the technical side of his game that could still stand to improve but he has the tools to be a decent keeper should a team invest the time and international slot in developing him.
John Gallagher - LB - Penn State
As we saw during the SuperDraft this year's class is loaded up with left backs and Gallagher is probably the best one remaining on the board after several got taken in Indy. He lacks the polish of the LB's that have already been drafted even though most mock drafts did include him in their first two rounds. Has the physical tools to be a good defender if he can work on developing the technical side of his game and become a better defender 1-v-1 and a better crosser when he joins the attack.
There are almost certainly other names that will be called tomorrow that could turn into solid professionals but for the most part every player left on the board has fallen to this point in the draft for a reason. It will be up to club's to determine what that reason is and weigh the risks against the potential rewards to try and find a steal in this draft. Toronto holds four more selections and they will be hoping to do better than last year when they picked five players who fans never even got to know before they moved on.