SB Nation’s MLS blogs held their annual mock SuperDraft last weekend, and Waking the Red was present to pick for Toronto FC. Unfortunately, after the Reds won MLS Cup, they have the last selection in every round, so we were pretty much left to pick up the scraps.
In the first two rounds, the Reds have the 23rd and 46th overall picks. It doesn’t look like a successful MLS player has ever been taken at those particular spots, but that’s not to say no team has ever found a gem late in the draft.
Last year, with the 21st, 26th, and 27th picks (the latter two of which TFC ended up trading away), WTR took Kwame Awuah, Chris Nanco, and Wuilito Fernandes. Those players were drafted in real life by New York City FC (16th), the Philadelphia Union (45th), and FC Dallas (62nd), respectively. Of course, the Reds ended up actually taking Brandon Aubrey.
Making absolutely no claim to being an expert on NCAA soccer, so I adopted the courageous strategy of picking the players whose scouting reports and highlights seemed best. I ended up with two players who I’m pretty happy with, I think.
You can check out SB Nation here to see the rest of the mock draft results.
Pick 1 (23rd overall): Oliver Shannon, M, Clemson University
This is a player I was looking at taking before the draft, and I was thrilled not to have to scramble and find someone new when he was still available at 23rd.
Shannon probably isn’t a very exciting pick. He’s not flashy, and he’s not really much of a goalscorer. Still, I think he was the most talented player still available for TFC’s turn. He’s the kind of player Toronto fans would love; let me know if this description rings any bells.
He’s a six-foot holding midfielder who sits deep and gets his hands dirty. Shannon’s aggressive in defence, and he can pass the ball well. His contributions sometimes fly under the radar a little, but he’s often the beating heart of his team’s success.
Sound like anybody you know? Honestly, after hearing how much like Michael Bradley he sounds, I was pretty much sold on Shannon. With Benoit Cheyrou gone and Bradley rounding the corner on 30, TFC could use a proper apprentice for the captain. In a few years, when Bradley can no longer play 90 minutes every 48 hours, Shannon could probably fill and the Reds wouldn’t miss a beat.
Shannon had four goals and five assists for Clemson this season. He led the Tigers to the semifinal of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, and he took them to the second round of the NCAA championship. He started for Clemson as a freshman in 2014, when they won the ACC title.
TFC have a lot of international roster slots to spare (four, I believe) so they should have no qualms taking the Liverpool native and Everton FC academy product.
Pick 2 (46th overall): Albert Ruiz, F, Florida Gulf Coast University
This pick is the one I was far less sure of. The players I had my eye on (Stu Holthusen, Brandon Bye, and and Mauro Cichero) were all gone when we got around to 46th overall. I’m pretty happy with Ruiz, though, even if I did have to use up another international roster slot on the Spaniard — I realize that there’s no way TFC would use two in the draft.
Anyway, I wanted an exciting attacking player. Somebody a little more marketable than Shannon, and someone who could help out the second-lowest-scoring team in the USL, Toronto FC II.
Ruiz is one of the top young players ever to come out of FGCU. He’s the program’s all-time scoring leader with 49 goals. He was also the highest-scoring player in the entire NCAA in his junior year, netting 22 times in 2016. That was more than a third of the goals FGCU scored that year, and they were the best offensive team in the country.
His stats dipped in 2017, but it seems like he was suffering from an injury. Ruiz appeared in just nine games this past season, scoring four goals.
According to a scouting report from Detroit City FC (NPSL) coach Ben Pirmann, Ruiz is a player who can excel offensively when not the sole attacking option. He struggles a bit when he’s the focus of the opposing defenders, but in an open game he thrives.
Ruiz stood out at the MLS Combine on the weekend, scoring a goal in the opening match to help Team Nemeziz to a 2-1 win over Team Predator.
Thankfully, I don’t have to wait long to find out how wrong I was with my selections. The 2018 MLS SuperDraft takes place this Friday, Jan. 19 in Philadelphia.