MLS Draft: A look at how each Eastern Conference team has done between 2008-2011

Patrick Nyarko: the undisputed star of Frank Klopas' draft picks

This Thursday, January 12 will feature the Chicago Fire's 5th MLS SuperDraft with Frank Klopas as the team's technical director. In order to establish how Klopas has stacked up to his competition over this time period, we will take a look at the highlights and lowlights of the draft histories of the other MLS teams. This is rather lengthy analysis so the summaries have been split up into the teams currently in the Eastern Conference and the teams currently in the Western Conference. This article deals with Eastern Conference teams. The teams in the West should see their post sometime tomorrow.

The summaries judge teams primarily on their ability to draft talent and how many MLS minutes their players play. There are several acknowledged problems with this methodology. First, not all minutes are created equal. Bad teams will often give more minutes to a rookie than perhaps deserved due to the fact that the team does not have any better options. For this reason, each team's performance over the past four season has been noted. Players are not created equally either and that is why we are using minutes to weigh a player's impact on a team. Only counting assists and goals would discount the value of defenders. Teams are given credit for a player's minutes even if they don't play for the team anymore or even had no time with the team at all. There are cases to be made about the ability to develop a player but we are looking for front offices that can identify MLS talent on a regular basis. Selecting a player that can play in MLS is a skill in itself. Trading that player and convincing another front office you have something valuable is a different skill. Now that the guidelines are under way, the evaluations of the nine teams in the Eastern Conference are after the break.

Chicago Fire

Overall performance:

170 pts - 2008: 46 pts - 2009: 45 pts - 2010: 36 pts - 2011: 43 pts

Top picks:

No. 7 (2008), No. 9 (2011), No. 12 (2008), No. 13 (2010), No. 20 (2010)

Number of overall picks: 18

Top producers:

Patrick Nyarko - No. 7 in 2008 - 6,476 minutes overall - 1,619 minutes per season

Jalil Anibaba - No. 9 in 2011 - 2,508 minutes overall - 2,508 minutes per season

Sean Johnson - No. 51 in 2010 - 2,520 minutes overall - 1260 minutes per season

Stephen King - No. 40 in 2008 - 3,770 minutes overall - 942 minutes per season

Baggio Husidic - No. 20 in 2009 - 2,741 minutes overall - 914 minutes per season

Biggest bust:

Dominic Cervi - No. 12 in 2008 - 0 minutes - 0 minutes overall

Overall: The Fire have been very consistent at selecting solid talent despite the fact that their highest draft selection since 2008 has been No. 7. Goaltender Dominic Cervi never played for the Fire because he did not like the $32,000 offer that other backup goalies make. He has made more money as the third string goalie with Scottish giant Celtic but he has seen almost no playing time. There are constantly rumors that he is ready to head back to the United States and he has seen his star greatly diminish while the Fire's own Sean Johnson and D.C. United's Bill Hamid have moved up the USMNT ladder.

As we will see later in a Fire only follow-up, Chicago has been able to rotate rookies into the lineup despite their modest MLS Regular Season success and their relatively low draft picks.

Columbus Crew

Overall performance:

203 pts - 2008: 57 pts - 2009: 49 pts - 2010: 50 pts - 2011: 47 pts

Top picks:

No. 6 (2008), No. 8 (2010), No. 12 (2010), No. 12 (2011), No. 15 (2011)

Number of overall picks: 17

Top producers:

Andy Iro - No. 6 in 2008 - 5,150 minutes - 1,288 minutes per season

Steven Lenhart - No. 48 in 2008 - 4,146 minutes - 1,037 minutes per season

Rich Balchan - No. 12 in 2011 - 1,615 minutes - 1,615 minutes per season

Dilly Duka - No. 8 in 2010 - 1,559 minutes - 780 per season

Shaun Francis - No. 63 in 2010 - 1,421 minutes - 711 minutes per season

Biggest bust:

Bright Dike - No. 12 in 2010 - 164 minutes - 82 minutes per season

Overall: Columbus has enjoyed great success over the past four years so they haven't had any top 5 draft picks. The top ten picks they did have were turned into solid selections with Andy Iro and Dilly Duka. Balchan and Justin Meram with No. 15 in 2011 were continued shrewd drafting. Late picks Steven Lenhart and Shaun Francis show the organization has some ability to find diamonds in the rough. Some higher picks like No. 20, No. 22, and No. 30 in 2008 went to waste but overall this front office knows what it's doing in the MLS SuperDraft.

D.C. United

Overall performance:

138 pts - 2008: 37 pts - 2009: 40 pts - 2010: 22 pts - 2011: 39 pts

Top picks:

No. 3 (2011), No. 6 (2009), No. 7 (2009), No. 21 (2009), No. 24 (2008)

Number of overall picks: 12

Top producers:

Chris Pontius - No. 7 in 2009 - 5,416 minutes - 1,805 minutes per season

Perry Kitchen - No. 3 in 2011 - 2,726 minutes - 2,726 minutes per season

Rodney Wallace - No. 6 in 2009 - 5,416 minutes - 1,721 minutes per season

Andrew Jacobson - No. 24 in 2008 - 3,989 minutes - 1,329 minutes per season

Jordan Graye - No. 55 in 2010 - 1,662 minutes - 831 minutes per season

Biggest bust:

Lyle Adams - No. 26 in 2009 - 0 minutes - 0 minutes per season

Overall: D.C. United has not had that many draft picks to use so it's hard to judge their accuracy. Top 5 picks are generally slam dunks but they didn't mess around with the No. 3 last year. Perry Kitchen has looked very good for the team in the District. Rodney Wallace and Chris Pontius are top ten picks who have played a lot of time but for some very mediocre squads. All of D.C.'s picks made the squad except for one (No. 52 Tony Schmitz in 2008) but again D.C. has been one of the worst teams in the league between 2008-2011 and has consistently had sub par international signings. It's hard to gauge just how talented the front office is at drafting players even if their Home Grown players Andy Najar, Bill Hamid and Ethan White are the best Home Grown group in the league.

Houston Dynamo

Overall performance:

181 pts - 2008: 51 pts - 2009: 48 pts - 2010: 33 pts - 2011: 49 pts

Top picks:

No. 7 (2011), No. 11 (2011), No. 41 (2009), No. 42 (2008), No. 43 (2010)

Number of overall picks: 9

Top producers:

Geoff Cameron - No. 42 in 2008 - 7,822 minutes - 1,956 minutes per season

Danny Cruz - No. 41 in 2009 - 2,621 minutes - 873 minutes per season

Will Bruin - No. 11 in 2011 - 1,693 minutes - 1,693 minutes per season

Kofi Sarkodie No. 7 in 2011 - 582 minutes - 582 minutes per season

Samuel Appiah - No. 46 in 2010 - 37 minutes - 37 minutes per season

Biggest bust:

David Walker - No. 43 in 2010 - 0 minutes - 0 minutes per season

Overall: Houston liked to trade away their picks prior to 2011. When the team finally had a dip in points in 2010 they wisely held on to their 1st Round pick and even acquired the 11th pick in the draft from the Portland Timbers by giving them some allocation money. Given Will Bruin's performance last season, every other team in the league has to be kicking themselves for not throwing Portland some allocation cash instead. Houston's draft record is also boosted by getting a lot out of the few, late picks they have had. They may not draft often, but when they do, Houston drafts wisely.

New England Revolution

Overall performance:

145 pts - 2008: 43 pts - 2009: 42 pts - 2010: 32 pts - 2011: 28 pts

Top picks:

No. 6 (2011), No. 9 (2010), No. 10 (2009), No. 13 (2008), No. 15 (2009)

Number of overall picks: 22

Top producers:

Kevin Alston - No. 10 in 2009 - 7,119 minutes - 2,373 minutes per season

Darrius Barnes - No. 40 in 2009 - 6,653 minutes - 2217 minutes per season

A.J. Soares - No. 6 in 2011 - 2,464 minutes - 2,464 minutes per season

Seth Sinovic - No. 25 in 2010 - 3,317 minutes - 1,658 minutes per season

Stephen McCarthy - No. 24 in 2011 - 1,428 minutes - 1,428 minutes per season

Biggest bust:

Rob Valentino - No. 13 in 2008 - 0 minutes - 0 minutes per season

Overall: Kevin Alston, Darrius Barnes and A.J. Soares have been critical for the New England Revolution but the team has also been on a downward slide with those players in place. The Revolution released Seth Sinovic after the 2010 season only to see Sporting KC give him roughly half of the minutes he has in his career. This is a summary at how teams are drafting players but that's gotta hurt. On the other end of that scale, the club held onto Rob Valentino for three years without cutting him and without playing him. Valentino is now at Orlando City getting rave reviews but no MLS calls so far. Given the Revolution's history of judging players, perhaps that should change. No. 15 pick in 2009 Ryan Maxwell didn't even make the team. No. 18 pick in 2008 Michael Videira owes most of his playing time to a struggling 2011 Chicago Fire team. New England has one of the highest amount of draft picks between 2008-2011 but not only Darrius Barnes sticks out. They should have at least one more starter given the number of picks and the quality of their team.

New York Red Bulls

Overall performance:

157 pts - 2008: 39 pts - 2009: 21 pts - 2010: 51 pts - 2011: 46 pts

Top picks:

No. 2 (2010), No. 11 (2009), No. 13 (2011), No. 14 (2010, No. 16 (2008)

Number of overall picks: 16

Top producers:

Tim Ream - No. 18 in 2010 - 5,220 minutes played - 2,610 minutes per season

Eric Brunner - No. 16 in 2008 - 6,012 minutes played - 1,503 minutes per season

Jeremy Hall - No. 11 in 2009 - 4,611 minutes played - 1,537 minutes per season

Luke Sassano - No. 32 in 2008 - 2,784 minutes played - 696 minutes per season

Tony Tchani - No. 2 in 2010 - 2,754 minutes played - 1,337 minutes per season

Biggest bust:

Tony Tchani - No. 2 in 2010 - 2,754 minutes played - 1,337 minutes per season

Overall: Tim Ream at No. 18 appears to be a case of even a broken clock is right twice a day. The New York Red Bulls have had some decent picks including the No. 2 pick overall in a draft that included Teal Bunbury and Zach Loyd. Tim Ream is really all they have to show for it though. All of their 'top producers' outside of Tim Ream have been traded away to other clubs with not much gained. It doesn't seem like this will change any time soon. Hans Bakce was reportedly the only MLS coach that wasn't at the MLS Combine this past weekend.

Philadelphia Union

Overall performance:

79 pts - 2008: N/A - 2009: N/A - 2010: 31 pts - 2011: 48 pts

Top picks:

No. 1 (2010), No. 5 (2011), No. 6 (2010), No. 7 (2010), No. 17 (2010)

Number of overall picks: 9

Top producers:

Danny Mwanga - No. 1 in 2010 - 2,996 minutes - 1,498 minutes per season

Kyle Nakazawa - No. 33 in 2010 - 2,006 minutes - 1,003 minutes per season

Michael Farfan - No. 23 in 2011 - 1,460 minutes - 1,460 minutes per season

Amobi Okugo - No. 6 in 2010 - 1,248 minutes - 624 minutes per season

Zac MacMath - No. 5 in 2011 - 675 minutes - 675 minutes per season

Biggest bust:

Toni Stahl - No. 17 in 2010 - 41 minutes per season

Overall: Philadelphia has done pretty well for themselves in their short history. No. 1 picks are like shooting fish in a barrel. Draft picks for expansion teams have a much better chance of hanging on to a squad than non-expansion teams. Still, Nakazawa and Okugo contributed to a 48 point team in 2011. Zac MacMath looked good in goal when Faryd Mondragon went down this year. Michael Farfan showed that Nakazawa wasn't a fluke and the Union can draft well later in the draft. Their draft record isn't quite concrete but it's already looking better than their Northeastern counterparts New England and New York.

Sporting KC

Overall performance:

165 pts - 2008: 42 pts - 2009: 33 pts - 2010: 39 pts - 2011: 51 pts

Top picks:

No. 1 (2008), No. 4 (2010), No. 8 (2009), No. 10 (2011), No. 11 (2008)

Number of overall picks: 19

Top producers:

Matt Besler - No. 8 in 2011 - 6,132 minutes - 2,044 minutes per season

C.J. Sapong - No. 10 in 2010 - 2,096 minutes - 2,096 minutes per season

Teal Bunbury - No. 4 in 2010 - 3,185 minutes - 1,593 minutes per season

Roger Espinoza - No. 11 in 2008 - 5,975 minutes - 1,494 minutes per season

Graham Zusi - No. 23 in 2009 - 3,393 minutes - 1,131 minutes per season

Biggest bust:

Dough DeMartin - No. 22 in 2009 - 0 minutes - 0 minutes per season

Overall: Sporting KC's motto would be 'I love it when a long-term plan comes together'. After mediocre 2008, 2009, and 2010 seasons, all of their top draft picks in recent years contributed between 1,744 and 2,880 minutes in a 51 point season. Sporting KC players seemed to step up their game and Graham Zusi especially seemed to be evolving as a player. 2012 is going to be a year that either makes Peter Vermes look like a genius for holding onto this core or show that Sporting KC rode it's heavy home schedule in the second half to a great record in a depleted Eastern Conference in 2011. None of Vermes first round picks have flaked out on him and DeMartin at No. 22 is the earliest player not to get a decent amount of playing time with the team. However, Vermes hasn't enjoyed any late round success. His late picks typically don't make the squad and the best late pick is Rauwshan McKenzie (No. 53 in 2008) who spent a couple years with Kansas City and only played 841 total minutes.

Toronto FC

Overall performance:

142 pts - 2008: 35 pts - 2009: 39 pts - 2010: 35 pts - 2011: 33 pts

Top picks:

No. 2 (2009), No. 4 (2009), No. 9 (2008), No. 10 (2008), No. 13 (2009)

Number of overall picks: 16

Top producers:

Stefan Frei - No. 13 in 2009 - 7,221 minutes - 2,407 minutes per season

Julius James - No. 9 in 2008 - 6,585 minutes - 1,646 minutes per season

Sam Cronin - No. 2 in 2009 - 6,020 minutes - 2,006 minutes per season

Pat Phelan - No. 10 in 2008 - 5,196 minutes - 1,299 minutes per season

Joao Plata - No. 49 in 2011 - 1,753 minutes - 1,753 minutes per season

Biggest bust:

O'Brian White - No. 4 in 2009 - 2,022 minutes - 674 minutes per season

Overall: Toronto FC have had some prime MLS draft picks but don't have much to show for it. Sam Cronin was traded for allocation money two years ago. Pat Phelan was traded to New England without playing a single minute for Toronto FC. O'Brian White was left unprotected in the 2010 Expansion Draft. Julius James was traded along with allocation money to Houston for Dwayne DeRosario in 2009. Only two picks out of all 16 picks could be considered successful for TFC: Stefan Frei and Joao Plata. Plata is real surprise considering how late he went. Stefan Frei has been a top notch starting goalie on a terrible club since 2009. TFC is alone in messing up so many high draft picks. The selections of Frei and Plata appear to be fortunate flukes rather than clever selections. With this draft history, it's not a surprise Toronto is rumored to be trying to trade down. They can't even seem to make the high draft picks count.

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