When players are picked in the fourth round of the MLS SuperDraft, I don’t often believe that they have much of a chance of making it to MLS, so they’re pretty much a write-off for me. However, I want to look at some of the fourth round picks in recent memory that have made it to the first team of an MLS side. Dare to dream; it’s still possible for low-ranking picks to make it big in MLS.
Dominique Badji — picked 67th overall in 2015 by Colorado Rapids:
A lot of these players end up getting time because the front office lacks ambition, so they end up giving minutes to players that perhaps shouldn’t have gotten as much of a chance as they ended up getting. In Dominique Badji’s case, this was what happened. For the past few years, Colorado Rapids’ strikers and overall attack have been very sub-par for MLS, even when they finished second place in the Supporters’ Shield in 2016, as they only scored 39 goals that season. To put that in perspective, they scored fewer goals than the last-placed team in the league in 2016 (Chicago Fire scored 42).
So, Dominique Badji got his chance in Colorado from 2015 to midway through 2018, ever since he was drafted in the fourth round of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft. He recorded 812 minutes in 2015, scoring only two goals. But as the energetic striker ended up getting more and more time with the first team, he ended up scoring 9 goals and getting 6 assists in 33 games in 2017. And most recently, in 2018, he had his breakout season with the Rapids, where he scored 7 goals and got 2 assists in 16 appearances, until he was traded to FC Dallas (as he became a pretty valuable player) while USMNT midfielder Kellyn Acosta was sent the other way. Ever since then, he hasn’t really been played as much as he would like in his preferred position, striker, which has greatly contributed to his lack of goals in Dallas — only scoring twice in 620 minutes.
Tony Rocha — picked 73rd overall in 2015 by Sporting Kansas City:
Tony Rocha is a useful, versatile defensive player who was drafted 73rd overall in 2015 by Sporting Kansas City. Unfortunately he was cut before the 2015 season started, so he didn’t start off his career in MLS with a ‘bang’. He returned to Austin Aztex of USL in 2015, but was later signed by Orlando City in 2016, where he acted as a squad player and only recorded 298 minutes. In 2017 and under a new manager he only played 25 minutes, but in 2018, he got by far his most playing time in the Orlando tire-fire era, where the 25-year-old recorded 819 minutes for the first team. At the end of the 2018 season, he was later traded to New York City FC in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft. We’ll have to see how he’ll do in the Bronx.
Jack Elliott — picked 77th overall in 2017 by Philadelphia Union:
A lot of players are overlooked in the MLS SuperDraft because they do not have a Canadian or American citizenship, meaning that they will take up a international slot. For the most hyped players in the draft, it doesn’t matter too much, but it may take down their value a little bit which is certainly unfortunate for them. Jack Elliott, an Englishman, could slot himself right into the group of players who was overlooked a little too much in the SuperDraft just because he took up an international slot. So although he may have not been picked in the first round of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, he could have been picked in the second or third round had he had American citizenship.
Ever since he started playing for the Union, he has been a key defender that has enjoyed many starts with them. In his first season with them in 2017, he played in 30 games (starting 29 of them), and was a key defender in helping Philadelphia become one of the better defenses in the league. In 2018, Elliott had a reduced role in the team, as other prospects became viable options, and took away a decent amount of time (he only played in 17 MLS games in 2018), but still got enough time to be considered as a good player to lead the Union defence into the 2019 season. He is one of the few players who has been successful in recent memory that was drafted in the fourth round of an MLS SuperDraft.
Although there were a few players that have gotten a decent amount of time with MLS teams or with teams abroad, these are some of the most successful fourth-round draft picks in recent memory. It’s pretty interesting to see how many players were overlooked over the years and dropped down to much lower picks in the MLS SuperDraft. It makes me wonder how much quality talent will be missed out on as many of the players drafted lower in the MLS SuperDraft, even players in the first round are now signed to a USL contract before they are even given a chance in the first team in MLS. Take Brandon Aubrey for example, who was drafted by Toronto FC in the 2017 draft in the first round, and was immediately signed to TFC II, to only be released by the Reds’ second team at the end of the season. Hopefully this new system is providing more perks than problems.