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Can Toronto FC discover ‘the next Achara’ in this year’s MLS SuperDraft?

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The Draft goes down at 2 p.m. EST on Thursday with all eyes on who the Reds will take with their first selection.

LIVE: MLS SuperDraft (via MLS YouTube)

TORONTO, Canada—The 2021 MLS SuperDraft gets underway Thursday at 2 p.m. EST with Toronto FC holding the 18th overall selection in the first round. In total, TFC possess four picks in this year’s three-round draft, including a third-round pick that was acquired last season from Inter Miami CF in exchange for the rights to Juan Agudelo.

Last season, Toronto FC drafted four players in the first two rounds, including standout performer Achara (25th overall) and 22-year-old defender and Ajax, Ont.-native Nyal Higgins (19th overall), whose contract option was recently exercised with Toronto FC II after spending most of last season on loan in Sweden.

Achara, of course, would go on to make an immediate impact, scoring the game-winner in the 2020 home opener at BMO Field, his only appearance of the year before losing the rest of his season to an ACL injury while preparing for the MLS is Back Tournament in July.

Given how COVID-19 impacted most amateur leagues in 2020, ultimately limiting scouting opportunities for prospective clubs trying to assess the potential of a prospect, it’ll surely be more difficult to uncover a gem this time around. But glass half-full, perhaps the lack-of-showcase opportunity will open the door slightly for the TFC and cause some of the better prospects in this year’s draft to drop to the Reds, who, again, don’t pick until No. 18.

While fair warning, rookies don’t often break onto the scene like Achara did last season, in 2020, its worth noting that Toronto FC did have 12 players who came up through the draft process on their first-team roster: Richie Laryea (7th overall), Patrick Mullins (11th overall), Justin Morrow (28th overall), Omar Gonzalez (3rd overall), Tsubasa Endoh (9th overall), Nick DeLeon (7th overall), Michael Bradley (36th overall), Alex Bono (6th overall), Jozy Altidore (17th overall), Eriq Zavaleta (10th overall), Griffin Dorsey (6th overall), and Achara.

With the Reds’ lack of depth at the back, there has been strong word that TFC may target a defender in this year’s draft. In MLSSoccer.com’s Mock Draft, Travis Clark had Toronto FC selecting Clemson centre-back Justin Malou, who can also play as a right-back. Of course, take that with a grain of salt.

You can find the full list of draft eligible players here.

You can watch the draft live on Jan. 21 at 2 p.m. EST. The first round of the virtual player selection event will be streamed live on MLSsoccer.com, the MLS App, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. In addition, fans can follow every pick as it happens with MLSsoccer.com’s MLS SuperDraft tracker.