San Jose has Chris Wondolowski and Magnus Eriksson as their two strikers. I highly doubt the Earthquakes spend this first round pick on a forward. When you consider how many years the Earthquakes have loaded up on midfielder in the MLS Super Draft along with the fact that J.T. Marcinkowski can be an effective backup to Andrew Tarbell at goalie the only logical option is to take a defender at 12.
Justin Fiddes is a great left back for Washington at 5-11 175 lbs. He ran a 4.37 40-time which is really impressive for a soccer player so he will get drafted in the first round. Fiddes showcased the versatility to play left back, right back, left wing, or right wing at the 2018 ML Combine. Not only can he defend effectively, he also has the offensive awareness, speed, and dribbling to go on the attack as well.
Sporting Kansas City gets a midfielder at 13 with Benny Fellhaber being traded to LAFC. Fellhaber had a down year in 2017, but was Sporting Kansas City's playmaker at midfielder for years. The 5-7 140 lb Rafael Andrade Santos is a great pick here since he had 12 goals, 5 assists, and 29 points in 2017. He's also someone that some believe could go as early as fifth overall to Minnesota United F.C. I don't believe Rafael Andrade Santos goes in the top 5, but he also won't fall past this pick.
Atlanta United F.C. has the luxury to ignore need and take the top player on the board. Ema Twumasi was once considered a top 5 pick. He struggled in the first round of the 2018 MLS Combine. That being said, Twumasi had 10 goals, 7 assists, and 27 points in 2017.
The Chicago Fire are set everywhere except right back now thanks to the signing of Nemanja Nikolic who leads the MLS in goals. Matt Polster may end up moving from defensive midfielder to right back in 2018. That means Chicago could get another defensive midfielder either as a future starter or a depth player.
The 5-10 159 lb Ken Krolicki had 5 assists in 2017. He's a great passer and defender with both the offensive awareness and defensive awareness to succeed in MLS. Krolicki can play attacking midfielder, central midfielder, or defensive midfielder at the next level and gives San Jose a defensive midfielder they can rely on. Krolicki helped Michigan State get 12 shutouts as a defensive midfielder in 2017.
The New York Red Bulls get Brian White at 16. Someone suggested I mock White to the Red Bulls a few weeks ago. The New York Red Bulls lost 7 midfielders. I'm fairly certain this is the position the Red Bulls reload at unless they want a Generation Adidas talent like Gordon Wild. That being said, Brian White out of Duke would be a nice addition for the Red Bulls. Brian White is a 5-11 180 lb midfielder with 9 goals, 2 assists, and 20 points in 2017. The versatility to play either as a pure attacking midfielder in the center or to play on the wing at midfielder or forward is certainly there.
Vancouver runs a 4-3-3 formation with a striker, secondary striker, and two wingers lined up at forward. They are set at midfielder, but only have one quality striker.
Jon Gallagher had 14 goals, 7 assists, and 31 points in 2016 after having 9 goals, 3 assists, and 21 points in 2015 during his sophomore season. Gallagher had 13 goals, 2 assists, and 28 points in 2017 after winning ACC player of the year in 2016 and scoring on Miles Robinson with no time left. Gallagher is faster and quicker than both Gordon Wild and Albert Ruiz on tape. His one knock is that he may be slightly undersized at 5-9 158 lbs.
Sporting Kansas City gets a striker with Dom Dwyer being traded at 18. The 5-11 172 lb striker has really stepped up as a senior earning team captain honors. He also had 11 goals, 2 assists, and 24 points in 2017 after being limited to 4 goals, 3 assists, and 11 points in 2016. Winn has done enough to earn first round consideration at 12 by getting North Carolina back to the College Cup semifinals in 2017 after they lost to Stanford in the 2016 semifinals. Winn's North Carolina teammate also signed a home grown deal with Sporting Kansas City.
Tim Kubel is a defensive midfielder with excellent footwork and dribbling who grew up playing soccer in Germany most of his career. Kubel had 7 goals, 5 assists, and 19 points as a true freshman in 22 starts while being a defensive midfielder in 2014. Kubel only had 5 goals, 3 assists, and 13 points in 2015 in 19 starts. Kubel had 1 goals, 9 assists, and 11 points through 15 games on an 11-3-2 squad that ranks third in the NCAA in 2016. Kubel helped produce 9 shutouts for Louisville in 2016. Kubel helped Louisville record 13 shutouts in 2017 along with 6 goals, 7 assists, and 19 points which is his best total since his freshman year.
The 5-9 165 lb Tim Kubel never missed a single start in his four year career at Louisville. This durability goes back to when he was playing in Germany prior to arriving at Louisville. Despite a lack of size he plays the game with so much intensity and makes up for it with his tremendous passion and speed. Kubel probably is the most durable prospect in this class when it comes to defenders in this years group. His size will force him to convert to right back or left back on the outside, but New York City F.C. can make him a right back here since that's the position he's projected to play professionally.
Houston got Chris Seitz from Dallas and moved on from the other goalie that was being investigated. The Dynamo still need one more goalie as they only have one on the active roster. At the same time, they have the luxury to go with the best player on the board. Christopher Lema is a top 20 talent in my opinion.
Christopher Lema is a 5-10 160 lb central midfielder with superb passing on tape. His 4 goals, 4 assists, and 12 points on tape may not be great stats. He's consistently kicking the ball in the right area and reading where the defenders are. Even when defenders double team certain areas Lima seems to find where the opening is and consistently makes the right play.
Lema turned down a home grown deal with New York Red Bulls making him eligible for the 2018 MLS Super Draft. The team captain for Georgetown would be a great fit for LAFC bringing the necessary tools and leadership to succeed. Lema had a strong 2018 MLS Combine so I don't see him falling past 20.
Columbus Crew S.C. runs a 4-2-4. They already have championship calibers midfielders, defenders, and the right goalie in place. This team only has one good striker and should have better players on the wing next season if Kekuta Manneh and last years first round pick Niko Hanson start on the wing.
The 6-2 170 lb Mohamed Thiaw had 12 goals in 2016. He had 8 goals, 2 assists, and 18 points in 2017. Thiaw is explosive and has great speed. Thiaw used his speed to dominate and separated himself from the 2018 MLS Combine.
I no longer believe, Seattle is in the position to go best player available. They lost Brad Evans who can play central midfielder, defensive midfielder, center back, or right back. The 6-3 185 lb Graham Smith transferred from Oregon State to Denver. He played both defensive midfielder and center back in 2017. Smith helped Denver get 8 shutouts and the game-winning goal to beat Omaha on October 28th in the regular season. He missed that same penalty kick in a conference tournament game where Omaha beat Denver 9-8, but Smith was on Denver's 2016 College Cup team the first year he transferred from Oregon State to Denver.
Seattle could go with either Graham Smith or Oliver Shannon at 22 if they wanted someone similar to Evans. Smith is bigger than Evans and he has experience at both defensive midfielder and center back even though Shannon was a two year team captain for Clemson. This was without a doubt the toughest selection for me to make in the first round.
Toronto F.C. can ignore need and take the best player on the board. At this point, I believe that player is Albert Ruiz of Florida Gulf Coast.
Albert Ruiz had 22 goals, 5 assists, and 49 points in 20 games as a junior. Ruiz is also 3/3 on penalty kicks in 2016 plus he's led Florida Gulf Coast to a conference championship game in 2016. The 6-2 180 lb forward only had 4 goals in 2017 due to injuries, but has emerged into a first round prospect with his brilliant play in 2016 because scoring 22 goals in 20 games is pretty surreal.
Ruiz has the kicking power and kicking accuracy to succeed in the MLS if he stays healthy. The leadership and soccer IQ is there too. Ruiz was one of my top 5 players heading into the season, but injuries may cause him to slip to Toronto F.C.
Toronto has two thirty year old strikers. They need some youth at forward with the backup to their two thirty year old forwards being a home grown player. Ruiz honestly could play on Toronto right now as a backup, but Toronto can also put him in their USL team and develop him until he makes the transition from Florida to Canada which is a pretty big transition.
Most people have a second round grade on Ruiz. He showcased everything from 2016 and is healthy again. I honestly believe Ruiz is the 2018 version of Will Bruin who fell to the second round and became a huge steal on draft day. That's the reason I have a first round grade on Ruiz. He showed the versatility to play striker, secondary striker, left wing, right wing. Thi guy already had the soccer IQ and the leadership. Showing me that kind of versatility at the 2018 MLS Combine shows me he's ready for the MLS regardless of whether its in USA or Canada.
We had Albert Ruiz on our podcast prior to the start of the 2017 College Soccer season. Ruiz is still a first round player for me even with the time he missed.