LAFC has four forwards, five midfielders, three defenders forming a veteran back line led by Walker Zimmerman, and two goalies. Most of the pieces for LAFC to make a splash are in place. LAFC is going to run a 2-5-3 with 2 forwards, 5 midfielders, and 3 defenders. Knowing this, LAFC has the luxury to ignore need and take the best player on their board. I still believe that Francis Atuahene and Tomas Hilliard-Arce are the two best overall players on the board.
At the same time, LAFC wants to add a cornerstone player that can be on the team for 10-15 years. There are only two Generation Adidas prospects that are 19-years-old or younger. Mason Toye, the Indiana striker that I really like on tape who reminds me of Cyle Larin and Joao Moutinho who has the best left foot in the class offensively, but is a huge project from a defensive standpoint because he doesn't diagnose plays on defense. He's undersized, and scouts haven't found what position he excels at yet meaning he'd probably be a bench player on day 1.
The 6-0 156 lb freshman helped Akron record 13 shutouts in 2017. He also has the versatility to play left back, center back, right back, or defensive midfielder. His plug-in-play ability makes him a top 5 pick. Some scouts argue he fits a possession type of team more so on the back line then Hilliard-Arce. He's got the soccer IQ and he's very alert. Moutinho interviewed well with numerous teams at the 2018 MLS Combine. He's played left back for six to seven years leading up to his time at Akron before getting a Generation Adidas offer.
Whether, I like this pick or not is pretty irrelevant at this point because there is a very strong chance Moutinho is the first selection for LAFC barring a trade. The thing that separates Moutinho from Hilliard-Arce in the eyes of other highly regarded MLS Scouts is the fact that Moutinho is a raw yet highly athletic two-way defender that can excel offensively and defensively down the road despite being raw. He has a high soccer IQ, but he didn't get voted team captain in his first year at Akron and he's a project player with the ceiling of an All Star. These other scouts also believe Hilliard-Arce is MLS ready at center back, but at the same time he has the ceiling of a defensive defender that can shut down a lane, yet may never become effective offensively.
Moutinho can go on the attack or defend. MLS teams don't necessarily look at guys with the best tape or the guy who is most likely to make an immediate impact. Sometimes they look for the player with the most room to develop or the player who has the tempo to adapt to professional soccer in the MLS at the next level. That's the one thing I've learned from watching this years 2018 MLS Combine, even though I'm not a huge fan of this pick. Mouthinho has the upside and the tempo to make it as Brek Shea type of player withe right type of coaching and that's what these scouts are looking at.
I love this pick. I'm holding my breath that the Galaxy get Hilliard-Arce there could still be a trade
The 6-1 172 lb Tomas Hilliard-Arce led Stanford to three consecutive championships. He even got Stanford a two more championships after Brandon Vincent left the team and plans to reach out to Vincent during the 2018 MLS Draft Process. Stanford has recorded over 10 shutouts in the last three years seasons in large part due to Tomas Hilliard-Arce.
Magic Johnson is one of the co-owners of LAFC. He's gonna want someone with a championship pedigree with the top pick. Hilliard-Arce led Stanford to back-to-back championships and got voted team captain in 2016 after Vincent left only to lead Stanford to another two championships in 2016 and 2017 after winning his first championship with Vincent in 2015. Hilliard-Arce reached out to Brandon Vincent.
Los Angeles can stay in California and draft a local player with the kicking power, kicking accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and ability to blanket forwards with his coverage. This is a guy that can intercept passes that come his way. He's strong and durable and does not get knocked on the ground. His communication and leadership is invaluable so I feel like he's going to be the top pick in the 2018 MLS Super Draft despite being a senior.
Tomas Hilliard-Arce led a defense that has 18 shutouts this year if you count the 2 shutouts to begin the season from exhibition games as well as 11 regular season shutouts in 2017, and 5 playoff shutouts in 2017. Tomas Hilliard-Arce also had 4 goals, 3 assists, and 11 points along with those 16 shutouts in both the regular season and the College Cup, and Tomas Hilliard-Arce is the clear cut number one overall prospect.
I like Tristan Blackmon as a top ten talent. He can play anywhere on the pitch. I love that about him. At the same time, I don't believe Blackmon is a top 3 player. You can't question Magic Johnson. This team was supposed to trade $200,000 in allocation money. They only traded $100,000 so they saved money. That's why I'll give this a B grade.
The 6-2 180 lb Tristan Blackmon has incredible size for a right back. Blackmon is big enough to be a center back at the MLS level. He also has experience at right back, left back, left wing, right wing, striker, and secondary striker. He could honestly play forward, midfielder, or defense with his skills and that skill set makes Blackmon a top 10 pick after re-watching his tape coming away extremely impressed because he has the offensive and defensive awareness to make it.
Francis Atuahene was the best player on the board. In most cases this would get an A+ grade. F.C. Dallas paid a hefty price with $200,000 in allocation money and they had bigger needs on defense. I love this pick going with the best player on the board, but it's also a pick that does not warrant an A+ grade simply because of what F.C. Dallas gave up in allocation money.
Francis Atuahene may be the fastest player in the entire 2018 MLS Super Draft at 5-9 170 lbs. He also led the Big 10 in shots this year despite only having 6 goals, 4 assists, and 16 points in 2017. You can't look at the stats. The tape with Atuahene reveals all of his skills as an offensive midfielder. Atuahene is capable of playing striker, secondary striker, left wing, right wing, central midfielder, attacking midfielder, or a playmaker.
Jon Bakero is the best overall player on the board. He won the 2017 Hermann Trophy and can make an impact right now. Chicago gave up $175,000 in allocation money and they gave up 15 which is he only reason I gave this an A- grade. They gave up a lot, but the payoff could be there.
That being said Jon Bakero is the most logical option for the Montreal at 7. He led Wake Forest with 16 goals, 14 assists, and 46 points in 2017 at 6-3 165 lbs. He's Wake Forest's best midfielder since Jack Harrison despite being a senior. He played midfielder in Spain growing up overseas and has played some forward at Wake Forest as well as midfielder giving him the versatility to play striker, secondary striker, left wing, right wing, central midfielder, or attacking midfielder. He projects as a midfielder in the MLS due to his consistent playmaking this season. His father played for F.C. Barcelona overseas.
Mueller is gonna make an immediate impact. I'm just surprised Orlando City S.C. went this route. IF Cyle Larin leaves I'll move this up to an A+ grade, but if he stays then this is an A- grade. Right now, I have an A grade on Mueller great pick.
Mueller had 8 goals, 11 assists, and 27 points in 2016. He had 9 goals, 20 assists, and 38 points in 2017. He's a natural forward, but displays the playmaking of a midfielder which is why I see the 6-0 170 lb forward converting to the wing at the next level.
Minnesota has Christian Ramirez who led the team with 14 goals as a striker along with Abu Danladi a finalist for rookie of the year as a secondary striker. Kevin Molino led Minnesota United F.C. with 9 assists as a midfielder/forward. Minnesota needed to take a midfielder or defender and they didn't do that, but they made up for it by getting Wyatt Omsberg at 15 which makes their draft look a lot better now so I bumped this grade up from a C grade to a A grade plus they got $25,000 in allocation money while getting the players they wante. For Minnesota their plan was to simply take the best player on their board at 7 and hope to land Wyatt Omsberg at 15. That was their goal and while this was a huge risk, the gamble paid off.
Brandon Bye is a plug in play player who can play anywhere on the pitch just like Tristan Blackmon. I had Bye as the eleventh best player and this is a great pickup for New England.
The 6-0 170 lb Brandon Bye is is a 6-0 170 lb midfielder who had 12 goals, 7 assists, and 31 points in 2017. Bye is someone who has the goal scoring of a forward, the experience to play at midfield, and the stamina of a fullback on the outside. He can play forward, midfielder, or defense with his versatility. The other reason, I love this pick is because Bye dominated the MLS Combine.
Brandon Bye may move to right back. Same can be said with Mark Segbers who I had a second round grade on. I'm giving the Revolution an F grade at 9 so their average draft grade averages out to an C grade.
Mo Adams only showed up for the final day of the 2018 MLS Combine. I trust what I see with his tape on and off the field and he seems like someone who can contribute in the closing minutes as a defensive midfielder if you think he's not ready to start at the very worst. I really like the upside Adams provides down the road.
Mo Adams won a freshman of the year award at Syracuse in 2016 despite being 5-6 165 lbs. He got voted team captain as a sophomore in 2017 and is an outstanding defensive midfielder with game breaking speed and outstanding ability to cover attacking midfielders by neutralizing their scoring ability by covering ground from his own area well into the opponents attacking zone.
He may not have any points. He's a great offensive facilitator in terms of passing though and considers himself the quarterback in football or the point guard in basketball when it comes to facilitating the offense for Syracuse.
I interviewed Mo Adams on the Draft Utopia podcast and it was easily one of the best interviews we had on our podcast. Mo Adams is the third consecutive Generation Adidas player to be picked to begin my final 2018 MLS Mock Draft.
Travis Clark had Francis Atuahene and Ema Twumasi as his top 2 overall players in his mock over at Top Draw Soccer. F.C. Dallas got both of those players. Put that into perspective. F.C. Dallas is one of the winners on day 1 now.