CHICAGO — Trades highlighted the first two rounds of the 2019 Major League Soccer Draft. Days before the draft, the Philadelphia Union traded out of the MLS SuperDraft entirely in one fell swoop. The host Chicago Fire followed suit by trading away all three picks they had in the first two rounds as well.
Despite some teams opting out, MLS commissioner Don Garber talked up the importance of the draft while selections took the stage after their names were called Friday afternoon in Chicago and gave heartfelt speeches that brought tears to their families’ eyes.
“There always will be a role for young players that are not developed in our academies and not purchased from abroad,” Garber said. “Our league needs special moments and our sport needs special moments. This is a moment to provide a young person an opportunity to thank his family, thank his coaches, support the youth system they came out of. . . . As a marketing guy at heart, I think these special moments are good for our sport.”
Expansion team FC Cincinnati opened the draft by taking a timeout before eventually selecting UCLA freshman midfielder Frankie Amaya No.1 overall. Word around the draft was that Cincinnati nearly traded the pick to one of multiple suitors, including LAFC, before taking Amaya.
The San Jose Earthquakes selected Siad Haji out of Virginia Commonwealth University with the No. 2 pick, and Orlando City called on Florida International’s Santiago Patino to round out the top three. See the full list of selections here.
Cincinnati was busy before and during the draft. FCC traded for all of Philadelphia’s picks Wednesday, bringing their total to 10 picks. FCC added Wake Forest defender Logan Gdula with the 13th pick. Later, the expansion side traded the 16th and 25th picks to the New York Red Bulls for $100,000 of general allocation money.
FC Cincinnati general manager and president Jeff Berding defended his team’s strategy of adding draft picks while other teams shifted their focus away from the event.
“A GM I’m friendly with said all these other teams were saying, ‘Don’t they understand that homegrowns are better?’” Berding said. “This GM says, ‘I told him every pick they make today will be better than any of their homegrowns because they have no homegrowns.’ This is a part of our development.”
Cincinnati coach Alan Koch added that his team has come a long way in three years in USL, but still has a long way to as it makes the jump to MLS.
“We’re a project club and we still have a long way to go,” Koch said. “Today is a big part of that. Us drafting Frankie and being Logan, too, is showing which direction we’re heading. They are two quality players we’re excited to bring in preseason and we gave them a chance to be successful.”
After FC Dallas selected Charlotte defender Callum Montgomery fourth overall, the first trade of the day happened. The host Chicago Fire shipped the fifth pick to Colorado for the 15th pick and $100,000 in general allocation money. Colorado then picked Denver forward Andre Shinyashiki.
“I knew that they had a lot of interest in me, but I did not know that they were going to trade up to get me,” said Shinyashiki, who now gets to stay in the same city he played four years in for the Pioneers.
Griffin Dorsey, a midfielder from Indiana, went to Toronto FC at No. 6. Dayne St. Clair was the first goalkeeper taken at No. 7 by Minnesota United. After Houston took Cal defender Sam Junqua at No. 8, a pair of Generation Adidas players rounded out the top 10 — Syracuse winger Tajon Buchanan went to New England, then North Carolina fullback John Nelson went to Dallas.
There were two more trades in the first round, making four in total. The Galaxy shipped the 12th pick to New York City FC for $75,000 in GAM. The Fire traded the 15th pick, which it acquired earlier in the day, to Minnesota for $50,000 in GAM.
There weren’t any blockbuster trades, but there was a non-draft trade that has been widely reported but not yet officially announced. Portland will acquire center back Claude Dielna from New England for $100,000 in GAM.
Kentucky forward JJ Williams was the final Generation Adidas player to be taken. He went to Columbus at No. 18.
“One of the most important parts about this whole process is not going with a certain number or anything like that,” Williams said. “It’s going to somewhere that’s the right fit for you and somewhere where you can bring something to a club and make it successful. Really, that’s not something I’m worried about, I’m just thankful for the opportunity.”