The 2017 MLS Combine is well underway with the second day of scrimmages over and the draft around the corner. Even with the flaws in the American college soccer system, it is obvious that there is growing talent coming out of the MLS Combine. As Chicago Fire fans, we should be very happy about this, the recent drafts of Matt Polster, Brandon Vincent, and Jonathan Campbell are all a consistent group in the starting lineup. Fire and U-20 World Cup winning coach Veljko Paunovic clearly likes working with young players. It also works out the Fire, in recent years, have become used to owning the wooden spoon of last place in the league, this gives them great draft position.
This also leaves the question, what should the Fire do this Friday at the draft? With picks number 3 and 11, the fire have flexibility. Chicago doesn’t even need these picks with all of the talented youth already on the roster. The top 5 draft picks are strong assets and Chicago always has the option to trade this away for the magical league, general allocation and targeted allocation money. If the general manager, Nelson Rodriguez doesn’t get a tantalizing enough offer to trade their spot, then Chicago needs to look at midfield depth. The first name that comes to mind, if he drops to spot 3, is Abu Danladi. Abu is a very similar winger to David Accam who could be a good mentor, great for a kid who is scrutinized for his lack of maturity and low work rate. On the other hand, Abu is undisputedly the most talented kid out of the draft and if it wasn’t for his immaturity and work rate, he would be the number one pick because of his athleticism and pure technical skill. If he doesn’t drop to the third pick or Nelson isn’t willing to take the risk, another player that is worth 3rd overall is Jackson Yueill. Yueill sees and reads the game better than anyone else in the draft. Able to play both a holding and creative role, he has been compared to US Men’s National Team Player and Toronto FC Star, Michael Bradley. Jurgen Klinssman spent his four years in charge of the national team deciding where to play Bradley, because he’s so good at both the holding and attacking role. Yueill’s positional flexibility, vision, and ball control are things that Chicago would do well to add to its future. If Chicago doesn’t manage either of these two then it might not be worth keeping their number three pick in the draft.
The 11th pick is a whole story on its own. Chicago will not get nearly as convincing as an offer to trade this one away and so it is worth taking the risk on trying to fill a needed spot on the roster here. This choice is a lot less clear. There are multiple options for the Fire, Reegan Dunk is an option at right back which is a spot that Chicago needs to fill if they’re, as expected, not resigning Rodrigo Ramos. Dunk is a true fullback who doesn’t get forward much but had a monstrous senior season becoming one of the best young pure defenders in the college game. Delgado, Abubakar, and Gressel, are all also possibilities at this pick but are less convincing because they all would take up international player slots which the fire currently don’t have. Niko Hansen, Daniel Johsnon, and David Goldsmith are players that moved up in the draft and highly impressed from their first two scrimmages and might be worth taking a risk on in the first round. Chicago traded away their second round pick to Minnesota but still have the third pick in the third round. With this pick expect Nelson and Pauno to try steal a promising GK to be mentored by the aging Uruguayan, Jorge Bava, while Matt Lampson tries to prove his worth to the future of the club.
The Chicago Fire are in a great position at this draft and should come away with Jackson Yeuill or some allocation money and Reegan Dunk. Although both of these players are promising, it is important to remember that The Fire are already stocked with youth in Vincent, Polster, and Campbell while they also have a fantastic pipeline of homegrown players coming through in the next few years. This year my sources say that we can most likely expect Indiana University defender, Grant Lillard to join the team. Lillard would possibly have been a top 5 pick in the draft if he had to go through the combine process and should be able to immediately help Chicago from day one. With the future homegrown additions of the UNC pair Cameron Lindley and Mauricio Pineda, Chicago is not in need of young promising prospects. What we need now is leadership and a veteran presence.
Did somebody say Bastian Schweinsteiger? Mourinho…, Bueller…, Mourinho…, Mourinho…?
-With the possible addition of Bastian Schweinsteiger I will know more after tomorrows conference call with GM Nelson Rodriguez as to what this means for Matt Polster.
-Watching every home PDL Game this summer, I can guarantee success from Mauricio Pineda and Cameron Lindley. Lindley is especially promising ranked first nationally of all college soccer rookies.
Edit: Grant Lillard, as well as all other HG possibilities have committed to the their respective colleges for another year.