The 19 blogs that individually cover each Major League Soccer team on the SB Nation network came together on Sunday to conduct the annual mock MLS Draft. It's a very imperfect science as no one has the long term plan of any front office at their disposal. We don't know if a big striker signing is in the works so a team will pass on a talented ready to start forward and go defense surprising everyone. We don't know if there is a report MLS teams have on the fragile nature of a player's physical structure or if they act poorly in the locker room.
We try and work around these handicaps based on what we know about our teams, their draft style, and where players are needed. There are only a couple of reliable sources out there for information on college prospects. I've found that going back a couple of years, Joe Mauceri has the best information and the best track record for accurately identifying where players should be taken and what their pro prospects actually are. I took Mauceri's Big Board of players, the Fire's roster, and Chicago's drafting style into battle with me as the Fire try to outwit the fellow mock drafters with crafty maneuvers.
2012 MLS SuperDraft
1. Impact - Darren Mattocks (GA)
2. Whitecaps- Andrew Wenger (GA)
3. Revolution - Chandler Hoffman (GA)
4. Toronto - Kelyn Rowe (GA)
5. Chivas -Casey Townsend
6. Quakes - Tyler Polak (GA)
7. United - Nick DeLeon
8. Portland- Andrew Jean-Baptiste (GA)
9. Chicago Fire - Chris Estridge
The Chicago Fire will be delighted if they have the chance to take former Chicago Fire PDL player and left back Chris Estridge with the 9th pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft. There might be some war room cursing if Tyler Polack is selected earlier as he was here by the San Jose Earthquakes but it is probably for the best. Polack has the Generation Adidas contract and has a higher talent ceiling. Chris Estridge is ready to contribute now and the Fire desperately need a competent LB backup for Gonzalo Segares and even RB Dan Gargan.
Segares lead the team in minutes played in 2011 by more than 300 and he isn't getting any younger. Estridge is an offensively minded left back that could duplicate and even surpass the offensive role Fire head coach Frank Klopas had Segares serve this year. Estridge played forward for the Fire's 2011 PDL team and even lead the team in goals with 7. The Indianapolis native is just too perfect of a fit to pass up.
Tyler Polak: the aforementioned left back with the Generation Adidas contract. Gargan and Segares need backups now. Estridge is more of a ready product. Polak would likely take more time.
Nick Deleon: a Louisville product who would be reunited with Chicago Fire team trainer Tony Jouaux. Jouaux was a graduate assistant strength and conditioning coach with Louisville's men's and women's soccer teams in 2010 before coming to Chicago. Beyond that small connection, Deleon is a player who profiles to play on the wing in the midfield and can start now. There is Sebastian Grazzini, Rafael Robayo, Pavel Pardo, Logan Pause, Corben Bone and Daniel Paladini creating a wealth of depth in the center of the midfield but the wing is pretty bare. Dominic Oduro, Patrick Nyarko and Marco Pappa played 90% of any wing position in 2011 and they could use another wing talent in the mix even if 4-3-1-2 will still be the favored formation next year.
Could Have Taken:
Matt Hedges: This would be a 'taking the best talent available' kind of pick. Hedges is a 6'4, 185 pound central defender from the University of North Carolina. He would not have a familiarity with fellow UNC graduate Jalil Anibaba because he transferred in just this year but he is from Carmel, Indiana, the home of the Chicago Fire's newest academy partner, Indiana United. Hedges is the best center back in the draft. He shouldn't be available at No. 9. If the Fire draft him, Josip Mikulic and Yamith Cuesta immediately become potential trade targets. Hedges should be able to match their production without taking up an international roster spot.
Ethan Finlay: The 5'9, 160 forward took just about every award you could imagine while at Creighton University outside of the Hermann Trophy (college soccer's version of the Heisman Trophy). The Hermann Trophy, he was simply a runner-up for. Finlay is a former Fire PDL product and hails from Marshfield, Wisconsin. He would add to the Fire's speedy forward rotation but also shouldn't be available in the real draft. After scoring a hat trick at the combine, the chances were made even lower. The lazy teams that use the combine as their only research will be all over him.
10. Crew- Sam Garza (GA)
11. FC Dallas - Matt Hedges
12. Toronto FC - Austin Berry
13. Philly - Enzo Martinez (GA)
14. Rapids - Tony Cascio
15. Seattle - Dom Dwyer (GA)
16. Sporting KC - Luis Silva
17. RSL - Callum Mallace
18. Houston - Tony Walls
19. LA Galaxy - Andy Rose
20. Impact - Kirk Urso
21. Vancouver - Colin Rolfe
22. Revolution - Ethan Finlay
23. Chicago Fire - Oliver Kupe
At 6'3, 185 pounds, Oliver Kupe provides a target forward the Chicago Fire can invite to pre-season camp. Born in Luxembourg to parents originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kupe would fit right in with the eclectic international backgrounds of the other Fire forwards Patrick Nyarko, Orr Barouch, and Dominic Oduro. Kupe went to high school in Michigan and graduated from Chicago based Northwestern University so he's already well adjusted to the city and the Midwest should he make the team.
The Fire were a non-factor in the air last year. Kupe would help negate that negative while being a minimum hit to the Fire's salary cap, international spots, and senior roster spots. He won't be a prolific goal scorer but he had a knack for scoring goals in big games and in big moments at Northwestern. Kupe could develop into more down the line but if he could turn the role/spots Cristian Nazarit and Gabriel Ferrari had on the squad last year into one for 2012, this would be a great pick for the team.
Ethan Finlay: The former Fire PDL forward already mentioned earlier. He shouldn't be anywhere near available when the Fire are on the board for the second time of the day... unless some kind of trade went down.
Kirk Urso: The Lombard, IL native would be a fantastic local pick at this spot. Urso is a former Fire PDL player who played his academy soccer for Sockers FC. The University of North Carolina graduate played defensive midfield in college but MLS scouts peg him for center back at the next level of play despite being a modest 5'11. He doesn't necessarily need more time to develop but you can't ask for better teachers than potential teammates Cory Gibbs, Pavel Pardo and Logan Pause.
Could Have Taken:
Tommy Meyer: You'll never guess where this guy played PDL ball... Okay, yes, right here for the Fire. Meyer is a center back that would be too good to pass up if he's available at No. 23. Meyer is originally from St. Louis. He went to the University of Indiana all four years. Meyer is 6'2 and 175 pounds. If you had to take Meyer or Urso, it's a coin flip with a possibly slight edge to Urso. If you can take Kupe or Meyer on talent level, it's Meyer but I took Kupe because I think he fills a unique role that is hard to find on the international/domestic market.
Jason Banton or Aldo Paniagua: Both players are fairly unknown young internationals that participated in the MLS Draft combine. The Fire probably won't take either player because they could use the international spots for other more established products. If Chicago does select one of these two, they saw some things they really liked and believe the player can add to Chicago's forwards.
24. RSL - Jason Banton
25. Quakes - Tommy Meyer
26. Columbus - Kenney Walker
27. Portland - Aldo Paniagua
28. Chicago - Raymon Gaddiss
Raymon Gaddis is one of a couple of right backs the Fire will be tempted to take with the No. 23, No. 28, or what is essentially the No. 47 overall pick; the No. 9 pick in the Supplemental Draft. It starts to get murky on overall talent after No. 20 and some teams start to pick for the future while others make picks hoping against the odds that they have found a player who can contribute right away.
Gaddis lands on the radar here because he was talented enough to make the Hermann Trophy Watch List in 2010 and 2011 but has failed to leave a lasting impact. Chicago's coaching staff might be able to get him to find that level people have potentially seen since 2010. Gaddis could blossom under the tutelage of veteran MLS fullbacks Gonzalo Segares and Dan Gargan while competing with fellow Indianapolis native Chris Estridge for the backup fullback position. Other RB options that are comparable to Gaddis include RJ Allen, Mykell Bates, and Aubrey Perry in descending order.
Kenney Walker: I was thinking of skipping this category all together here because 3 of the 4 guys taken since the Fire's last pick were mentioned in the 'Could Have Taken' but that seemed rude to Walker. He is an Ohio native that would share the Louisville connection with Fire Strength & Conditioning Coach Jouaux. On the field, Walker is a holding midfielder that could benefit from working with the Fire's deep midfielder ranks if he made the team. Oh, and did I mention he is a former Fire PDL player?
Could Have Taken:
RJ Allen: A right back that would fit right in with Dan Gargan. Both players have similar playing styles and even hail from the same part of the country. Gargan is from Philly, Allen is from New Jersey, here's to hoping Allen is a Jets fan because Gargan is huge on the Eagles. On-field Allen and Gaddis look to be equal. It just depends on what the Fire have in their scouting records.
Ryan Meara: The best goaltender in the draft, Chicago will take Meara if they think he can slot away into the Fire's third goalie position. There's no room to put a third goalie among the 20 Senior roster spots. Meara would be eligible to take one of the 10 Supplemental roster spots without rocking the boat. Third string goalie Alec Dufty didn't factor in 2011 but any third goalie will see plenty of bench time in 2012 if Sean Johnson makes the U.S. Olympic soccer team this summer.
29. Columbus - RJ Allen
30. Sporting KC - Miguel Ibarra
31. New York - Greg Jordan
32. Philly - Aaron Maund
33. Quakes - Brian Ownby
34. Seattle - Jamie Finch
35. Philly - Hunter Jumper
36. RSL - Arthur Ivo
37. Houston - Ryan Meara
38. LA Galaxy - Yuri Gortenzvaig