HOUSTON — As the Houston Dynamo look to build in the offseason, their picks in the first two rounds of the 2020 SuperDraft suggest there’s still more work to do in the attack. The club the selected two players with attacking capabilities, forward Garrett McLaughlin at No. 8 overall in the first round, and midfielder Luka Prpa in the second round, No. 34 overall.
McLaughlin, 22, has been on the club’s radar since the MLS College Combine at the end of 2019 in Las Vegas.
“Garrett McLaughlin is someone that we’ve tracked very closely obviously with the proximity of where he’s been playing,” Houston Dynamo General Manager Matt Jordan said. “It was really positive — along with tracking them through their college seasons — to also have (the players) in our combine in Las Vegas and really get a close-up view.”
During McLaughlin’s four-year career at Southern Methodist University he played 76 games, 68 of them starts, tallying 37 goals and 13 assists for the Mustangs throughout.
The Oklahoma City native finished his senior season as the team’s leading goal-scorer with 16 goals, the second-most scored in the AAC and seventh-most in the NCAA.
“In particular you are trying to take the best player available,” said Dynamo coach Tab Ramos. “We were looking for someone who could score goals. It’s obviously the most difficult thing in the game. I think with Garrett we found both – someone who can score and someone who can also play wide and provide service for other players.”
The new Dynamo 6-foot forward has a long list of accomplishments that include making the First Team American Athletic Conference honors in 2019, being named the AAC Rookie of the Year as a freshman in 2016 and making the United Soccer Coaches First Team All-East Region in 2019.
Still overwhelmed with excitement, McLaughlin knew who to thank for helping him reach this on the cusp of a career as a professional soccer player.
“I can’t say one specific person, but I would say two: Definitely my parents,” he told the Houston Dynamo website. “It’s been a long road. A kid from Oklahoma doesn’t get many of these opportunities and may get overlooked, but I’m happy to be here.”
McLaughlin will be able to play alongside a familiar face — Dynamo goalkeeper Michael Nelson attended the same college and played on the same field has McLaughlin. Nelson had some advice for his new teammate.
“It can be intimidating at first because it’s a brand new team and a new level,” he said via the Dynamo. “Everybody is very approachable and we’re all in this together so just be yourself, don’t be shy, ask questions and just embrace the new opportunity.”
Second in line to be chosen was midfielder Luka Prpa, who the Dynamo expected to have been taken before the club’s second pick.
“Luka Prpa who is an all-around central midfielder, very good skill,” Ramos said. “We definitely didn’t think he would fall to the second round we feel lucky that we had the opportunity to pick him.”
The 21-year-old player already has international experience having played in the U.S. youth national teams at the under-14, -15 and -17 levels.
“We have not crossed paths on the national team, but I do feel he is an excellent midfielder,” said Ramos, who left a position at U.S. Soccer coaching the U-20s to take the job with the Dynamo this offseason. “Someone who can play both ways, a box-to-box number eight. We require a lot of work from our central midfielders with the way we want to play. I think he fits in, whether he fits in right away to contribute his first year – we don’t know. What we do know is that we have two good players for down the road,” Ramos said.
Prpa says he is ready to show Ramos that he deserves a spot on the squad.
“I didn’t get a chance to work with him before but I always followed his teams with the U-20s. They have a great style and play a very attacking style of soccer which I enjoy. I’m looking forward to the opportunity of coming in, working hard and getting the opportunity to earn my place hopefully in the team and show what I can do,” said Prpa.
Prpa tallied 18 goals and 21 assists in the 66 games he played during his four-year college career at Marquette University. The Wisconsin native also earned All-Big East Second Team honors in 2019 and 2017, as well as All-Big East First Team honors in 2018 while in school.
Although Houston spent Thursday’s draft looking for attacking players, Ramos insisted that choice doesn’t signal what the club will do the rest of the offseason.
“I wouldn’t take any conclusions from what happened in the draft. The fact that we took attacking players is mostly that I like attacking players, but I think we are very well covered in the back,” Ramos said.
Houston holds the 18th pick in the third round (No. 70 overall) and the eighth pick in the fourth round (No. 86 overall), which will take place via a teleconference on Monday.
Player Profile – Garrett Mclaughlin
Full Name: Garrett Mclaughlin
Date Of Birth: Nov. 10, 1997 (22 Years Old)
Birthplace: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Hometown: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
University: Southern Methodist University
Fifa Nationality: United States
Player Profile – Luka Prpa
Full Name: Luka Prpa
Date Of Birth: July 27, 1998 (21 Years Old)
Birthplace: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Hometown: Wind Lake, Wisconsin
University: Marquette University
Fifa Nationality: United States