I had a plan.
It was simple - Toronto FC have three picks in the opening two rounds of the MLS SuperDraft at 21st, 26th and 27th. In SB Nation’s mock draft, I would grab one of the top right-backs at 21, a promising Canadian at 26 and whoever had fallen too far or had a bit of intrigue about them at 27. I had several names in mind who I thought would be realistically available with TFC on the clock.
It did not exactly work out as hoped. You can find the draft in full here - our picks are explained below.
Pick 1 (21st overall): Kwame Awuah, UConn
The right-backs didn’t last. Chris Odoi-Atsem, the best available, went about where expected at ninth to Columbus. Reagan Dunk soon followed him off the board at 13, to Real Salt Lake. But Colton Storm, the one way I had my eye on anyway, fell a little bit further to the point where I thought my masterplan was going to come off.
Then FC Dallas grabbed him - like Matt Hedges, from North Carolina - with the 18th pick. All of a sudden, with two minutes allowed per pick, the pressure is on.
That said, I think we still managed to get good value by selecting Kwame Awuah. He’s a left-footed central midfielder from Toronto who has followed the Cyle Larin path from Sigma FC to UConn and made the American Athletic Conference first team in 2016. Awuah could be a Daniel Lovitz with more upside; someone who can play centrally or on the left and offer balance in a midfield group that, as of today, is currently exclusively right footed.
Pick 2 (26th overall): Chris Nanco, Syracuse
The problem with taking Awuah at 21st was that it eliminated one of the options for what I had planned at 26th - a young Canadian. That wouldn’t have been too much of a problem had Seattle not taken teenage wild card Adonijah Reid, who I really wanted as a perfect draft-and-stash candidate, with the very next pick.
Instead we get another ex-Sigma player in Chris Nanco, who attended Syracuse. Again, it wasn’t quite the plan, but Nanco is interesting and has impressed at the combine. Speed is his main asset, but his coaches also point to his ability to keep up that pace while in possession of the ball as a skill that makes him stand out. There’s a potential winger or forward in a front two there at the professional level.
Enjoying battle between Maryland's Chris Odoi-Atsem & Syracuse's Chris Nanco. Odoi-Atsem=top senior but Nanco's giving him fits #MLSCombine— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) January 8, 2017
Think Syracuse’s Chris Nanco could go higher than some expect. Not many better winger/2nd forward options available.— Will Parchman (@WillParchman) January 10, 2017
Pick 3 (27th overall): Wuilito Fernandes, UMass Lowell
OK, I kind of mailed it in here.
Wuilito Fernandes is not a top prospect, but he is instant cult hero material. He turns 27 - 27! - in March. He’s from Cape Verde and he can play pretty much everywhere. Second-round picks do not have a great hit rate in terms of becoming MLSers, but Wuilito would go down in TFC folklore either way.
Would Lalas Abubakar, a consensus first-round centre-back who fell to 31st, have been a smarter pick? Maybe Jorge Sanchez Gomez, the talented attacking midfielder from Temple? Almost certainly, but where’s the fun in that?