Impact, Toronto FC opt to trade away first-round picks in MLS SuperDraft
Toronto FC teammates joke around during practice ahead of the MLS Cup finals against the Seattle Sounders in Toronto on Friday, December 8, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Neil Davidson, The Associated Press
Published Friday, January 19, 2018 7:21PM EST
PHILADELPHIA -- The Montreal Impact and Toronto FC opted to forgo their first-round picks at the MLS SuperDraft on Friday, trading them away for money to finance other player acquisitions.
The Impact sent the fourth overall selection to FC Dallas for US$200,00 in general allocation money and the seventh to Minnesota United for $150,000 in targeted allocation money.
Coach Remi Garde said he also wanted to show a vote of confidence in the young talent the team already has coming through its academy.
"I believe we have quite a few young players that could go through to the first team," he said. "It's a message for them."
The Impact have been making moves in the off-season with Algerian international midfielder Saphir Taider expected to join from sister club Bologna and French-born Senegalese defender Zakaria Diallo coming over from France's Stade Brestois to fill the void left by Laurent Ciman's departure to expansion Los Angeles FC.
Taider was shown on Twitter signing a contract.
"That was in Italy," Impact technical director Adam Braz said with an almost straight face. "So you can't say that he was here and he signed and we didn't tell you."
Then he added more seriously: "He's coming over ... It's a great signing for the club."
Toronto traded the 23rd selection, the last of the first round, to Minnesota United for $50,000 in targeted allocation money and a second-round (28th overall) pick.
The Vancouver Whitecaps did use their first-round pick, staying close to home in choosing University of Washington fullback Justin Fiddes with the 17th overall selection. Vancouver took Creighton defender Lucas Stauffer in the second round, 26th overall.
Fiddes can play both left and right fullback and has speed to burn.
"We're excited," said Robinson. "I didn't believe he would drop that low."
Stauffer can play fullback or left and right in a back three. At five foot six and only recruited by Creighton, he also has a chip on his shoulder.
Toronto took German-born defender-midfielder Tim Kubel from the University of Louisville with the second-round pick obtained from Minnesota. GM Tim Bezbatchenko said trading his first-round pick was a successful gamble that he could get Kubel five picks later.
Kubel, who spent time in the FC Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund academies, fills a need for Toronto in that he can play right fullback or wingback.
The MLS champions wrapped up the second round by taking Western Michigan goalkeeper Drew Shepherd, who adds depth in goal after No. 3 Mark Pais was released in the off-season.
For the first time ever, defenders went 1-2-3 to open the draft in a first round that saw six trades at the Philadelphia Convention Center.
Los Angeles FC took Portuguese defender Joao Moutinho from the University of Akron first overall. A member of the Generation Adidas class of elite underclassmen, Moutinho will not count against Bob Bradley team's salary cap.
Commissioner Don Garber announced the pick as a group of fans chanted "Save the Crew," a reference to Columbus' possible move to Austin, Tex.
The 20-year-old Moutinho, listed at six foot and 156 pounds, can play left back, centre back and defensive midfielder. Prior to college, he spent 10 years at the Sporting Lisbon academy.
"I see you there, 3252," Moutinho said referencing the 3252, the LAFC supporters' group singing his praises as he took the stage.
The L.A. Galaxy took Stanford defender Tomas Hilliard-Arce second. The three-time NCAA champion had already signed a contract with the league prior to the draft.
LAFC also got the third pick, sending US$200,000 in allocation money ($100 in general allocation money and $100,000 in targeted allocation money), to D.C. United to get defender Tristan Blackmon of the University of the Pacific.
Montreal traded the fourth overall pick to FC Dallas for US$200,00 in general allocation money. Dallas used the pick, which the Impact had acquired from Colorado in a trade for defender Eric Miller, to select Michigan winger Francis Atuahene.
A native of Ghana, Atuahene's journey to the draft started as an 11-year-old when he was selected by the Right to Dream football academy in Africa. That led him to Hotchkiss School in Connecticut and the University of Michigan.
"I'm very very blessed, I'm very very happy, very very excited," said Atuahene. "I just want to get on the field and show them why they brought me."
Minnesota traded the fifth pick to Chicago for $75,000 in GAM, $100,000 TAM and the 15th overall pick plus a player to be determined. The Fire then selected Wake Forest senior forward Jon Bakero, son of former Spanish international Jose Mari Bakero.
Jon Bakero won the MAC Herman Trophy as top NCAA male player and was named MVP at the MLS Combine that preceded the draft.
"Wow, this is probably the happiest day of my life," Bakero said.
"I came from Spain seeking an opportunity and I'm very thankful," he added.
A record four goalkeepers went in the first round, starting with Butler's Eric Dick, who went to Sporting Kansas City at No. 13.
Virginia's Jeff Caldwell (New York City FC), SMU's Michael Nelson (Houston) and Virginia Polytechnic's Ben Lundgaard (Columbus) went 19 through 21.
Seattle took midfielder Alex Roldan, brother of Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan, 22nd overall.
The influx of targeted allocation money, used to finance the acquisition of or to pay down the salary cap hit of elite players, had an effect with some teams reluctant to use valuable international roster spots on untried youngsters.
Two Generation Adidas players dropped to the second round: Maryland's German-born forward Gordon Wild went 32nd overall to Columbus while Virginia's Ghana-born forward Edward Opoku 37th to Atlanta.
Players drafted drew from 10 different countries: Costa Rica, England, France, Germany, Ghana, Ireland, Norway, Portugal, Spain and the U.S.
Rounds 3 and 4 will go Sunday via conference call.