With the 2019 MLS SuperDraft less than 72 hours away, it’s time for an annual tradition: the SBNation Mock Draft.
Every year during Draft Week, every MLS Team Brand in the SBN network selects one staff member to represent their team in the Mock Draft. This year, that honor has fallen to yours truly.
I feel the need to include a very large and obvious caveat here, which is that guessing what the Chicago Fire are going to do in the Draft is very much an exercise in futility. For starters, recent history suggests that the Fire will concoct a late deal that knocks them down the selection order in exchange for MLS Allocation Money or maybe a non-rookie depth player of dubious quality. Further, the Draft selections the club does make tend to follow a strategy that is largely inscrutable to everyone except Nelson Rodriguez.
To wit: last year our greatest positions of need were in the backline and in goal, yet three of the Fire’s four SuperDraft selections were forwards. (To say nothing of Cam Lindley, whose refusal to play for Chicago necessitated a trade with Orlando for Rafael Ramos, who lasted half a season before having his contract terminated and moving to Holland.)
Who we picked last year in the SBNation Mock Draft: Ken Krolicki (CM, Michigan State), Marcelo Acuna (F, Virginia Tech)
Who the Fire picked in the actual SuperDraft First Round: Jon Bakero (F, Wake Forest), Mo Adams (M, Syracuse)
Who is still on the roster: Mo Adams
All this to say: my pick in the Mock Draft will very likely be totally, hilariously wrong. You don’t need to @ me on Twitter to tell me I’m stupid.
With that out of the way:
Hot Time In Old Town selects Akeem Ward (D, Senior, Creighton University) as the Fire’s First Round SuperDraft pick (#5 overall)
Simply put: we need outside backs. Desperately.
With Brandon Vincent retiring from the sport, Matt Polster anxious to leave Chicago, and Raheem Edwards demonstrating that he’s a much better wide attacker than defender, our fullback options look extremely dire at the moment. It’s unlikely that this front office will be willing to spend significant resources— which is to say, Allocation Money, which Andrew Hauptman seems to be hoarding like a dragon from a high fantasy novel— on a wide defender. The best place to shore up this position is through the SuperDraft.
Akeem Ward is a solid option to fill that need. The Virginia native is currently ranked #50 in Top Drawer Soccer’s National Men’s rankings (#2 in their Big East list). He started every game for the Bluejays’ 2018 campaign, logging over 1600 minutes and tallying two goals and four assists. He earned a conference Defensive Player Of The Week nod in August of last year.
Ward brings a lot to the table. He’s versatile, able to play on either the right (his natural position) or the left. He can be a difference-maker in crucial games, as seen in his performance during Creighton’s upset win over Clemson early in the season. He has a reputation for being hard-working and fiercely competitive, which means he could bring an energy to the Fire that this squad, uh, lacks on occasion. And if his play during the MLS Combine this past weekend was any indication, Ward’s transition to pro ball would be smooth as silk.
Plus his Twitter account is pretty <FireEmoji>.
I respect Steve Nash but can we not have this man commentating champions league matches. Mans is making free throw references like please stop this madness ♂️— Akeem Ward (@akeemjward) December 11, 2018
If N-Rod and the rest of the club brain trust have a lick of sense, they’ll pick Ward and set him up for success in 2019. Which... means they’ll trade down the selection order for some Colorado reject and then end up picking a forward (who we’ll end up ditching in August) while Ward ends up collecting an MLS Cup winners medal with DC United.
Who would you have picked in a Mock Draft? Let us know in the comments!