Featured image: Tom Boland
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Yes, it’s time for the MLS SuperDraft and this year Commission Don Garber has brought the party to Philadelphia.
The Philadephia Union are poised to make some noise in front of what is sure to be a loud and boisterous gathering of loyal Union supporters in the Grand Ballroom of the Pennsylvania Convention Center. This year, Union boss John Hackworth and his technical staff will be busy as the club has a league high eight draft choices. The 2014 SuperDraft represents an opportunity for Hackworth to add some of the needed pieces to a squad that just missed the MLS Cup Playoffs last season.
In part one of our two part preview of the SuperDraft, we’ll run the rule over the seven Reading United prospects that were invited to the pre-draft combine taking place in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This is a group of players with which Hackworth & Co. will be familiar, as Union assistant coach Brendan Burke served as Reading United Head Coach for the past six seasons and coached everyone of these players in PDL action.
It is a talented bunch and there are several players that will fill important needs at PPL Park.
Dacres, a senior midfielder for the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, featured in nine matches for United in 2013. A dynamic player that combines excellent pace with good strength on the ball, Dacres recorded three goals and two assists for Reading in 2013.
The UMBC midfielder was second on his squad with seven goals in 2013 and took home the America East Conference’s Midfielder of the Year award. He was also named to the America East All-Conference First Team. The native of Rosedale, New York finished his college career with 12 goals and seven assists for the Retrievers.
Top Drawer Soccer rates Dacres as the 53rd best player available in the draft, while Soccer By Ives has the Reading midfielder ranked at No. 43.
Why the Union might draft Dacres
Dacres has shown well at the combine. The left footed Dacres would give the Union much needed depth on the left side of the field, either as a left midfielder or as a left wing should the coaching staff opt for a 4-3-3 formation in 2014. The former UMBC standout will likely be on the board for the Union in round two.
Lowe became Reading United’s fifth Generation Adidas signing following an outstanding 2013 calendar year. The junior center back is a fierce presence along the defensive backline, possessing great athleticism and very good technical skill. Lowe is excellent in the air and is a scoring threat on set piece plays.
Lowe appeared in 12 Premier Development League matches for Reading United over two seasons. In 2013, the native of Kingston, Jamaica anchored Reading’s defense that allowed the fewest goals in the Premier Development League’s Mid-Atlantic Division. The 6’3” center back featured in 10 matches for United, scoring one goal. The defender was recognized for his outstanding play with United by being named to the 2013 PDL All-League Team.
Following the 2013 PDL season, Lowe returned to the University of Hartford were he was named as one of the team’s captains. Lowe’s excellent form at Reading carried over to his play with the Hawks with the junior defender notching five goals and two assists while helping his side record 11 shutouts. The Jamaican U20 National team player capped his college career by being named to the America East All-Conference First Team.
Lowe also represented Jamaica in the 2013 CONCACAF Under-20 Championships, where he scored a goal in the Reggae Boyz’s 4-0 victory of Puerto Rico.
Why might the Union draft Lowe?
While playing for the University of Hartford, Lowe has been off the radar for many in the soccer community. That’s not the case with the Union. Lowe has been under the watchful eye of Union assistant coach Brendan Burke for two seasons with Reading United and excelled for the Union’s Premier Development League affiliate in 2013. The Jamaicann defender is big, athletic and has great tactical awareness. He’s not a finished product yet, but could easily slot into the Union’s back line should injury or suspension sideline one of the starters.
As a Generation Adidas player, Lowe’s salary will not count against a team’s 2014 salary budget.
One of the best prospects to ever play for Reading United, Steve Neumann is one of the marquee players available in the 2014 SuperDraft. The native of New Hope, Pennsylvania is a hybrid, playing both forward and midfield with equal efficiency. Neumann possesses all the tools to make an impact in Major League Soccer, his vision, ball control and distribution are second to none.
In his final PDL season, Reading United’s captain appeared in 11 matches in league and Open Cup play recording four goals and two assists, including his highlight reel goal against Lehigh Valley United Sonic in the first round of the U.S. Open Cup. During his three summers with United, Neumann played in 34 matches scoring eight goals and logging nine assists.
Neumann, a senior forward with Georgetown University, took home the Big East Offensive Player of the Year award after leading the conference with seven goals in 2013. The Hoyas captain also earned All-American honors, totaling 10 goals and six assists during Georgetown’s 2013 season. Througout his career as a Hoya, Neumann has recorded 41 career goals and 34 assists.
Soccer By Ives rates Neumann as the 14th best prospect in this year’s draft while Top Drawer Soccer has the Georgetown senior as the second best prospect in the draft.
Why might the Union draft Neumann?
Rarely has their been so much pre-draft buzz over a college player in the Philadelphia soccer media. Local columnists and bloggers have been salivating at the idea of the Union selecting Neumann when it became apparent that the draft pick the Union acquired in the Gabe Farfan to Chivas trade was going to be a top three selection. Though there are questions as to where Neumann might play at the professional level, Coach John Hackworth has shown he likes players that can play multiple positions. The Union’s midfield is in need of a creative playmaker and the New Hope native can fill that role.
Neumann is a top ten pick in this draft class and with two picks in the top six of the SuperDraft, the hometown guy would look awfully good in a Union kit.
Ockford spent the 2013 PDL season as part of a Reading defense that allowed the fewest goals in the Mid-Atlantic Division. The 6’1″ centerback from Yardley, Pennsylvania played in 11 matches for United, including stand-out performances against the Harrisburg City Islanders and the New York Red Bulls in the U.S. Open Cup.
The Louisville defender is a solid defensive prospect. Ockford does well distributing the ball out of the back and is a force in the air. Ockford was honored as the American Athletic Conference Defender of the Year where he started every match and scored four goals, including three game winning tallies. The senior defender helped the Cardinals win the first ever America Athletic Conference regular season title.
Top Drawer Soccer pegs Ockford as the 21st best player in the draft while Soccer By Ives rates the former United defender as the 39rd best player available for selection.
Why might the Union select Ockford?
Defensive depth. Ockford would be a solid pick up for the Union in Round Two to help bolster the Union defensive corps.
Ribeiro was one of the stars of Reading United’s talent laden 2012 squad. The creative midfielder helped lead United to it’s first ever victory in the U.S. Open Cup, scoring the opening goal in a 2-1 victory over New York Greek American Atlas. The Brazilian often turned provider for his United teammates, forming a dangerous partnership with Deshorn Brown. Ribeiro played in 14 matches for Reading United in 2013, scoring three goals and recording four assists.
The Big South Offensive Player of the Year possess excellent passing vision and displays a silky touch on the ball. At 6’3″ and over 200 pounds, Ribeiro is a fierce presences in any side’s offensive set-up. The former Reading midfielder was the leading force in helping the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers claim the Big South Regular Season and Tournament Championships.
In his college career, the native of Belo Horizonte, Brazil scored 31 goals and recorded 26 assists. Ribeiro concluded his impressive college career by being named an NSCAA All-American.
Ribeiro is likely to be selected in the first round of the SuperDraft. Top Drawer Soccer rates Ribeiro as the 7th best prospect in the draft pool, while Soccer By Ives has the Brazilian rated as the 9th best player available for selection.
Why might the Union pick Pedro?
Neumann has gotten all the pre-draft buzz in Philadelphia, but Ribeiro may be better suited to the Union. The Brazilian midfielder has turned heads at the Combine showing off his sound technical ability and his precision passing.
In the Union lineup, the All-American midfielder could become the distributor that Jack McInerney has been desperate for. Ribeiro has the size and strength to shake off pesky MLS defenders and would be a great option for the Union if he’s still available with the sixth overall pick.
Slogic appeared in four matches for United in 2013 before departing for a training stint in Austria. The towering 6’6″ center back helped United start the season on a 449 minute consecutive shut-out streak. The Colorado Rapids academy product also registered a goal in his limited time with Reading, scoring on a thundering header from a Steve Neumann free kick to help United ease to victory in an away match against FA Euro-New York Magic.
The Colorado Springs, Colorado native wrapped up his college career by leading Cornell in scoring with three goals and two assists. Slogic anchored the Cornell defense that posted eight shut-outs and a 0.60 goals against average and was named the Ivy League’s Defender of the Year.
Top Drawer Soccer rates the former United defender as the 36th best prospect in the SuperDraft. Soccer By Ives places the Rapids Academy product as the 65th best player available in the upcoming draft.
Why would the Union draft Slogic?
Again, defensive depth. Slogic is incredibly durable having played over 5,000 consecutive minutes for Cornell. Oh yeah, did I mention, this guy is 6’6″! Look for Slogic to go off the board late in Round Three or in Round Four.
Sweat comes into the 2014 MLS SuperDraft as the best left back on the draft board. The University of South Florida defender has impressed MLS scouts with his athleticism and style of play. The native of Palm Harbor, Florida uses his speed to get up the left flank and joins his team’s attack. As a natural left back, the All American Athletic Conference First Teamer serves an excellent cross into an opponent’s penalty area. Sweat has the strength and cunning to battle opposition forwards.
As a senior, Sweat started all 21 matches for the Bulls, helping his team post eight shut-outs.
While playing in eight matches for Reading in 2013, Sweat scored a goal and served up two assists. While with United, the USF defender spent time training in both the Czech Republic and Sweden.
A sure fire first round draft choice, Sweat was named the 7th best prospect in the draft pool by Top Drawer Soccer. Soccer By Ives has the South Florida defender as the 18th best player available for selection.
Why might the Union select Sweat?
Um, hello? Sweat is a natural left back and the Union do not have one of those on their roster. The South Florida defender is the best left back prospect in this draft and his style of play is well suited to the Union.
Look for part two on Tuesday.